Corticosteroid Injections After Rotator Cuff Repair Improve Function, Reduce Pain, and Are Safe: A Systematic Review

Arthrosc Sports Med Rehabil. 2021 Dec 20;4(2):e763-e774. doi: 10.1016/j.asmr.2021.10.010. eCollection 2022 Apr.


Purpose: To review the literature on postoperative corticosteroid injections (CSIs) following primary rotator cuff repair (RCR) to evaluate efficacy and adverse effects.

Methods: A systematic review of the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were performed to identify all studies published within the last 15 years, which reported on outcomes of postoperative CSIs following RCR. Studies including patients who received only preoperative CSIs and revision RCRs were excluded. Included studies were evaluated for study methodology, patient demographics, outcome measures, physical examination parameters, results of imaging studies, and adverse effects or clinical complications.

Results: Seven studies comprising 5,528 patients satisfied inclusion criteria. Among included patients, 54.8% were female and mean age range from 52.3 ± 13.0 to 62.7 ± 6.6 years. Only 1 included investigation was a Level I study. Overall, 4 of 5 studies reported significant improvements in pain and outcome scores (Constant score, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score) compared with controls. Across all studies, the majority of these effects were statistically significant at 3 months postoperatively but not beyond this time point. Five of the 6 included investigations reported no increased rate of retears after postoperative CSIs. One study did find an increase in retear in patients receiving postoperative CSIs but was unable to determine whether these retears were present before the patient received the CSI. Another investigation reported an increased rate of infection only if the CSI was administered in the first postoperative month.

Conclusions: Postoperative CSIs may improve pain and function for up to 3 months following primary RCR but not at later follow-up time points. CSIs should be administered only after the first postoperative month to minimize the potential risk for adverse events.

Level of evidence: Systematic review of level I-IV studies.

Publication types

  • Review