Classification and analysis of pathology of the long head of the biceps tendon in complete rotator cuff tears

Chang Gung Med J. May-Jun 2012;35(3):263-70. doi: 10.4103/2319-4170.106145.


Background: Pathology of the long head of the biceps tendon (LHB) is commonly associated with rotator cuff tears (RCTs). Superior labral anterior-posterior (SLAP) lesions can also occur with RCTs. The purpose of this study was to include SLAP lesions as part of LHB pathology in surgical cases of RCT and define the role of SLAP lesions in RCTs.

Methods: We retrospectively evaluated clinical data from 176 cases of complete RCT undergoing surgery. During surgery, the LHB was arthroscopically examined. A modified 6-type classification was used to describe the LHB pathology in these cases: tendinitis, subluxation, dislocation, partial tear, complete rupture and SLAP lesions. The relationship of LHB pathology to different characteristics of RCTs was statistically analyzed.

Results: Of RCT cases, 33% had Type 1 (tendinitis), 11% had Type 2 (subluxation), 9% had Type 3 (dislocation), 16% had Type 4 (partial tear), 7% had Type 5 (complete rupture) and 6% had Type 6 (SLAP) lesions. The remaining 18% of cases had no obvious LHB pathology. LHB pathology were associated with RCTs of a long duration (> 3 months), large area (> 5 cm(2)), and multiple or subscapularis tendon involvement. Seventy four percent of patients with affected shoulders underwent simultaneous surgery for both LHB pathology and RCTs.

Conclusion: Most patient with RCTs with chronic, massive, and multiple or subscapularis tendon involvement also had LHB injury. SLAP lesions, which we classified as a subgroup of LHB pathology, should be identified during rotator cuff surgery and treated appropriately.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Rupture
  • Shoulder / pathology*
  • Shoulder Joint / injuries*
  • Shoulder Joint / surgery
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery*
  • Tendons / surgery