Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Based Tendon Healing of Different Regions of the Shoulder: Comparison Between the Suture-Bridge and Single-Row Techniques

Orthop J Sports Med. 2023 Jan 11;11(1):23259671221137835. doi: 10.1177/23259671221137835. eCollection 2023 Jan.


Background: Rotator cuff retears occur more often at the proximal region with the suture-bridge (SB) technique than at the typical footprint region with the single-row (SR) technique. Few longitudinal clinical trials have focused on the postoperative tendon quality of the repaired rotator cuff at different regions between the 2 techniques.

Purpose: To compare tendon healing of the proximal and distal regions between the SB and SR techniques.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Included were consecutive patients who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and undertook clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations at 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively between 2016 and 2017. These patients were divided into the SB and SR groups according to the technique used. The repaired tendon was segmented into distal and proximal regions on ultrashort echo time-T2* mapping images. Clinical outcomes (Constant score, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score, Fudan University Shoulder Score, and visual analog scale for pain) and MRI-based tendon healing (T2* values) of different regions were compared between the 2 groups. The differences in T2* values and clinical scores were determined by 1-way analysis of variance for repeated measurements.

Results: A total of 31 patients (17 in SB group and 14 in SR group) were included. At 12-month follow-up, significant improvements from preoperatively were achieved for all patients in all clinical scores (P < .001 for all). No significant between-group differences were found in T2* values of the distal region at any time point; however, the mean T2* value of the proximal region at 3 months was significantly higher in the SB group compared with the SR group (P = .03). This difference became nonsignificant at subsequent follow-up time points.

Conclusion: Significant clinical improvements over time can be expected in the first year after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. In the early postoperative period, higher T2* values in the proximal region of the repaired tendon (representing inferior tendon quality) were seen with the SB technique compared with the SR technique; however, this phenomenon was resolved over time.

Keywords: quantitative MRI; rotator cuff; single row; suture bridge.