Long-Term Outcomes of Massive Rotator Cuff Tear Repair. A Systematic Review

Long-term Outcomes of Massive Rotator Cuff Repairs: A Review of Prospective Randomized Controlled Studies


Rotator cuff injuries are a common occurrence, causing significant shoulder pain and functional impairment. Massive rotator cuff tears are particularly challenging to treat due to the degree of the tear and the associated musculotendinous degeneration. Over the years, various surgical techniques have been employed for massive rotator cuff repairs, but their long-term efficacy remains a topic of ongoing investigation. This review aims to summarize findings from prospective randomized controlled studies on the long-term outcomes of massive rotator cuff repairs.

Methodology of Review

The data for this review were gathered from several prospective randomized controlled studies that evaluated the long-term outcomes of massive rotator cuff repairs. The chosen studies were published in peer-reviewed journals and involved patients who had undergone surgery for massive rotator cuff tears. The primary outcomes included pain levels, shoulder function, and quality of life measures. The secondary outcomes involved retear rates and complications.

Efficacy of Massive Rotator Cuff Repairs

The majority of the studies demonstrated that massive rotator cuff repairs generally lead to significant improvements in pain and functional outcomes. Post-operative scores on measures such as the Constant-Murley score and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score improved significantly compared to preoperative baseline scores. In particular, patients reported improved ability to perform daily activities and experienced less pain during movement.

Long-term Retear Rates

Despite the initial success, several studies reported high retear rates during long-term follow-up. The retear rate varied among studies but was consistently reported to be higher for massive rotator cuff tears compared to smaller tears. The exact causes of this higher retear rate are still being investigated, with factors such as patient age, comorbid conditions, and the quality of the repaired tendon implicated.

Quality of Life

Quality of life measures demonstrated improvements following massive rotator cuff repairs. However, patients who experienced retears reported a decrease in quality of life measures, demonstrating the significance of a successful repair in maintaining long-term improvements.

Complications and Safety

The reported complication rates were relatively low, with most complications being minor and treatable. However, some studies reported a slightly higher rate of complications in older patients and those with comorbid conditions, emphasizing the need for careful patient selection and individualized treatment plans.


The long-term outcomes of massive rotator cuff repairs show considerable promise in alleviating pain and restoring function. However, the high rate of retears remains a significant concern. More research is needed to optimize surgical techniques and post-operative rehabilitation protocols to reduce retear rates. It is also essential to consider individual patient characteristics when planning treatment to maximize long-term success and minimize complications.

Recommendations for Future Research

Future research should focus on developing advanced surgical techniques and rehabilitation protocols to decrease the retear rates. Additionally, more studies are needed to identify risk factors for retear and poor outcome to optimize patient selection and tailor management strategies. Despite current limitations, massive rotator cuff repairs continue to provide significant long-term benefits for many patients suffering from this debilitating condition.

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