Background: The correlation between the structural integrity of rotator cuff repair and the clinical outcome for the patient remains controversial. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between patient function and structural integrity of the rotator cuff after repair.
Methods: A systematic review and a meta-analysis were conducted for Level-I and Level-II studies showing outcome measures after rotator cuff repair and an imaging assessment of the structural integrity of the repair. Data extracted included patient demographics, tear size, repair type, clinical outcome measures, and repair integrity. Statistical analysis was performed to compare outcomes in patients on the basis of the structural integrity of repair at the time of the latest follow-up.
Results: Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the latest analysis. Of the 861 patients who underwent rotator cuff repair with a minimum of a one-year follow-up, 674 patients (78.3%) had intact repairs at the time of latest follow-up. There was no difference in tear size between patients with intact repairs and those with retears (p = 0.866). The University of California Los Angeles shoulder score, the Constant score, and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score increased and the visual analog scale score decreased in patients regardless of the structural integrity of the repair. Patients with intact repairs had higher Constant scores by 8.93 points (p < 0.0001) and higher University of California Los Angeles shoulder scores by 2.95 points (p = 0.0004). Postoperative American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons scores were no different in patients with intact repairs or retears (p = 0.15). Postoperative visual analog scale scores were 0.93 points lower in patients with intact repairs (p = 0.01). Patients with intact repairs had increased strength in forward elevation by 2.40 kilograms (5.29 pounds) (p < 0.00001) and had a trend toward increased strength in shoulder external rotation (p = 0.06). Although these results are significant, the differences are not clinically important on the basis of the validation of these outcome measures.
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that there is not a clinically important difference in validated functional outcome scores or pain for patients who have undergone rotator cuff repair regardless of the structural integrity of the repair. Patients with intact repairs do have significantly greater strength than those with retears.