Tendon Repair Leads to better Long-Term Clinical Outcome than Debridement in Massive Rotator Cuff Tears

Matthias Alexander König*, Volker Alexander Braunstein
Department of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Surgery, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Bavaria, Germany

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© 2017 König and Braunstein.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Surgery, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich Nußbaumstr. 20, 80366 Munich, Germany; Tel: +49 89 6800 278 00; Fax: +49 89 6800 278 11; E-mail:



Massive tears in the rotator cuff are debilitating pathologies normally associated with loss of function and pain. Tendon reconstruction is seen as the standard treatment in order to preserve shoulder function and to inhibit cuff associated osteoarthritis. However, the effect on longer-term shoulder function and patient satisfaction is unknown.

Material and Methods:

165 consecutive patients with massive tears were included. 57 debridement (mean age 61.9±8.7 years (range 43-77)) and 108 reconstruction (mean age 57.5±8.9 years (range 45-74)) cases could be followed up 2-4 (short-term), 5-6 (mid-term) and 8-10 (long-term) years after surgery. Evaluation was performed with the Constant, a modified ASES and the DASH score. Statistical analysis was done using Sigma-Stat Version 3.5 with a p-value<0.05 indicating statistical significant differences.


All three scoring systems showed no significant differences in the short-term follow-up for the two groups (mean values: Constant debridement/repair: 70±11.9/66±13.6; ASES debridement/repair: 22.3±3.3/ 23.3±3.3; DASH debridement/repair: 22.3±11.0/ 24.3±10.1). In the mid-term (Constant debridement/repair: 51±2.9/68.3±5.2; ASES debridement/repair: 20.3±1.3/24.3±1.7; DASH debridement/repair: 31.0±6.5/20.3±5.4) and long-term follow-up (Constant debridement/repair: 42.3±3.8 /60.7±2.6, ASES debridement/repair: 17.3±0.5/21.7±0.5, DASH debridement/repair: 41.3±6.2/25.0±1.4), rotator cuff reconstruction revealed better objective results and better patients’ satisfaction.


Rotator cuff tendon repair leads to better long-term clinical outcome and subjective satisfaction compared to debridement. Tendon reconstruction should be considered as a treatment for patients suffering from massive rotator cuff tears, thus preserving shoulder function and by that means delay indication for reverse arthroplasty.

Keywords: Rotator cuff tear, Reconstruction, Debridement, Long-term follow-up, Outcome.