The Rotator Cuff and the Superior Capsule: Why We Need Both

Arthroscopy. 2016 Dec;32(12):2628-2637. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2016.08.011.


Tears of the rotator cuff are frequent. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 repairs are performed annually in the United States. Rotator cuff repairs have been successful despite fatty infiltration and atrophy of the rotator cuff muscles. Although the emphasis in rotator cuff repair has historically focused on re-establishing the tendon attachment, there is growing interest in and understanding of the role of the superior capsule. The superior capsule is attached to the undersurface of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscle-tendon units, and it resists superior translation of the humeral head. Herein, we propose that it is the defect in the superior capsule that is the "essential lesion" in a superior rotator cuff tear, as opposed to the defect in the rotator cuff itself. We propose that rotator cuff repair must restore the normal capsular anatomy to provide normal biomechanics of the joint and thus a positive clinical outcome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty
  • Arthroscopy
  • Humans
  • Humeral Head / physiology
  • Joint Capsule / injuries*
  • Joint Capsule / physiology
  • Joint Capsule / physiopathology
  • Joint Capsule / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff / physiology
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / surgery
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Tendons