Partial-thickness articular surface rotator cuff tears in patients over the age of 35: Etiology and intra-articular associations

Modi, Chetan S.; Smith, Christopher D.; Drew, Stephen J.
January 2012
International Journal of Shoulder Surgery;Jan-Mar2012, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p15
Academic Journal
Purpose: Partial-thickness articular-sided rotator cuff tears have a multifactorial etiology and are associated with degeneration of the tendon. They are often described as an injury of the young athlete, although they are also found in the older population. The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency and associations of partial-thickness articular-sided tears in patients over the age of 35 years. Design: Retrospective Materials and Methods: A retrospective study of all arthroscopic procedures for rotator cuff pathology in patients over the age of 35 years over a 2-year period by a single surgeon was performed. The included patients were divided into two groups based on the arthroscopic findings: those with a partial-thickness articular-sided rotator cuff tear and those with pure tendinopathy. The groups were then compared to identify the associated pathology with the rotator cuff lesions. 2x2 contingency table analysis and unpaired Student's t-test were used for statistical analysis. results: One hundred patients were included in the study of whom 62 had a partial articularsided tear. Those with a partial articular-sided tear were older (P=0.0001), were more commonly associated with a documented injury (P=0.03), and more commonly had biceps degeneration (P=0.001) and synovitis (P=0.02) within the joint. Conclusion: Partial-thickness articular-sided tears are a common occurrence in patients requiring arthroscopic surgery for rotator cuff pathology over the age of 35 years. This probably reflects an injury in an already degenerate cuff. This would support the theory of intrinsic degeneration of the tendon in this age group and probably represent a different etiology to those seen in the young athletes. Level of evidence: Level 3


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