Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder News

Seeking Thorough Choices for Partial Rotator Cuff Tears

Athletes aren't the only people who have shoulder problems. People of all ages tear the rotator cuff in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that surround and help hold the shoulder joint in place. A rotator cuff tear affects one or more of these tendons.

Like many injuries, a full tear in the soft tissue or a break in the bone is easier to treat than a partial tear or sprain. Doctors are gathering information and comparing cases to find out the best way to treat partial tears of the rotator cuff. There are many treatment options. Surgery itself offers many choices.

Doctors at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York have joined the ongoing search. They reviewed the charts of 86 patients who had partial rotator cuff tears. Each one had surgery to repair the damage.

The study showed some trends. A large tear in any patient needs full repair, not just cleaning up the area. Older patients with small tears had better results. The authors of this study aren't sure why this is so. Perhaps older patients are less active, or maybe they complain of pain less often than young, active patients.

The results of this study agree with previous studies. Large tears of the rotator cuff (when the tear is more than 50 percent through the tendon) need a full repair. Small tears (less than 50 percent) can be usually treated with a smaller operation. The torn fibers are shaved away, but the tendon is allowed to heal by itself.


Suzanne L. Miller, MD, et al. Failed Surgical Management of Partial Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears. In Orthopedics. November 2002. Vol. 25. No. 11. Pp. 1255-1257.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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