Rotator cuff repair: published evidence on factors associated with repair integrity and clinical outcome

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Feb;43(2):491-500. doi: 10.1177/0363546514529644. Epub 2014 Apr 21.


Background: Rotator cuff tears are common, and rotator cuff repair represents a major health care expense. While patients often benefit from rotator cuff repair, anatomic failure of the repair is not unusual.

Purpose: To identify the published evidence on the factors associated with retears and with suboptimal clinical outcomes of rotator cuff repairs.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis of articles with evidence levels 1-4.

Methods: A total of 2383 articles on rotator cuff repairs published between 1980 and 2012 were identified. Only 108 of these articles, reporting on over 8011 shoulders, met the inclusion criteria of reporting quantitative data on both imaging and clinical outcomes after rotator cuff repair. Factors related to the patients, their shoulders, the procedures, and the results were systematically categorized and submitted for meta-analysis.

Results: While the number of relevant articles published per year increased dramatically over the period of the study, the clinical and anatomic results did not show improvement over this period. The weighted mean retear rate was 26.6% at a mean of 23.7 months after surgery. Retears were associated with more fatty infiltration, larger tear size, advanced age, and double-row repairs. Clinical improvement averaged 72% of the maximum possible improvement. Patient-reported outcomes were generally improved whether or not the repair restored the integrity of the rotator cuff. The inconsistent and incomplete data in the published articles limited the meta-analysis of factors affecting the outcome of rotator cuff repair.

Conclusion: In spite of a dramatic increase in the number of publications per year, there is little evidence that the results of rotator cuff repair are improving. The information needed to guide the management of this commonly treated and costly condition is seriously deficient. To accumulate the evidence necessary to inform practice, future clinical studies on the outcome of rotator cuff repair must report important data relating to each patient's condition, the surgical technique, the outcome in terms of integrity, and the change in patient self-assessed comfort and function.

Keywords: outcome; retear; rotator cuff repair.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Shoulder Joint / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome