Massive rotator cuff tears: definition and treatment

Int Orthop. 2015 Dec;39(12):2403-14. doi: 10.1007/s00264-015-2796-5. Epub 2015 May 1.


Purpose: The aim of this review is to summarise tear pattern classification and management options for massive rotator cuff tears (MRCT), as well as to propose a treatment paradigm for patients with a MRCT.

Method: Data from 70 significant papers were reviewed in order to define the character of reparability and the possibility of alternative techniques in the management of MRCT.

Results: Massive rotator cuff tears (MRCT) include a wide panoply of lesions in terms of tear pattern, functional impairment, and reparability. Pre-operative evaluation is critical to successful treatment. With the advancement of medical technology, arthroscopy has become a frequently used method of treatment, even in cases of pseudoparalytic shoulders. Tendon transfer is limited to young patients with an irreparable MRCT and loss of active rotation. Arthroplasty can be considered for the treatment of a MRCT with associated arthritis.

Conclusion: There is insufficient evidence to establish an evidence-based treatment algorithm for MRCTs. Treatment is based on patient factors and associated pathology, and includes personal experience and data from case series.

Keywords: Arthroscopy; Cuff tear arthropathy; Massive rotator cuff repair; Outcome; Pseudoparalysis; Reverse shoulder arthroplasty; Scores; Shoulder function; Tendon transfer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty*
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Rotator Cuff* / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff* / surgery
  • Shoulder Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Joint / surgery
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Tendon Transfer*
  • Treatment Outcome