Superior Capsule Reconstruction for Irreparable Massive Rotator Cuff Tears: Does It Make Sense? A Systematic Review of Early Clinical Evidence

Am J Sports Med. 2020 Nov;48(13):3365-3375. doi: 10.1177/0363546520904378. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


Background: Treatment of irreparable massive rotator cuff tears (MRCTs) in patients without advanced glenohumeral osteoarthritis remains a challenge. Arthroscopic superior capsule reconstruction (SCR) represents a newer method for treatment with increasing popularity and acceptance.

Purpose: To analyze the clinical evidence surrounding SCR and determine the current clinical outcomes postoperatively.

Study design: Systematic review.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed following the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Electronic databases of PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane, and Google Scholar were used for the literature search. The study quality was evaluated according to the Modified Coleman Methodology Score. Studies in English evaluating SCR outcomes were included.

Results: Seven studies were reviewed, including 352 patients (358 shoulders) treated with arthroscopic SCR with the mean duration of follow-up ranging from 15 to 48 months (range, 12-88 months). Fourteen patients were lost to follow-up, leaving 338 patients (344 shoulders) with clinical outcome data. Graft types included dermal allografts (n = 3 studies), fascia lata autografts (n = 3), or both (n = 1). Most commonly, a double-row technique was utilized for humeral graft fixation. The most common complication included graft tears in 13% of patients, resulting in 15 SCR revisions and 7 reverse shoulder arthroplasties. Postoperatively, improvements in visual analog scale (2.5 to 5.9), American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (20 to 56), Japanese Orthopaedic Association (38.0), Subjective Shoulder Value (37.0 to 41.3), and Constant (11.6 to 47.4) scores were observed. Three studies reported respective satisfaction rates of 72.9%, 85.7% and 90%. Increases in external rotation, internal rotation, and abduction with improved strength in external rotation were observed postoperatively. Improvement of pseudoparalysis was also observed in 3 studies. One study reported return to sports in 100% of patients (2 competitively, 24 recreationally) with no adverse outcomes.

Conclusion: SCR showed good to excellent short-term clinical outcomes with adequate pain relief and functional improvement. The current evidence suggests that the procedure is an alternative for symptomatic patients with irreparable MRCT; however, the included studies were fair to poor in quality, and there were some notable complications. Long-term follow-up will determine the longevity and ultimate role of this new method in the treatment of irreparable MRCT.

Keywords: arthroscopy; irreparable; massive rotator cuff tear; superior capsule reconstruction.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy*
  • Humans
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries* / surgery
  • Shoulder Joint* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome