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Case Closed for Open Rotator Cuff Repair?

The debate over open or closed surgery for rotator cuff repair rages on. If anything the differing opinions have become more intense. Some doctors say open surgery is best for small, easily managed tears. This study compares two groups of patients. One group had the open cuff repair. The second group had the first series of arthroscopic repairs done by the surgeon.

Patients in the study had rotator cuff tears of all sizes (small to large). Everyone was followed for at least 15 months and some up to two years. The same surgeon did all the operations. The first 32 patients had the open method of repair. Then the surgeon switched to using the arthroscopic approach for the next 67 patients.

Results in both groups were measured using a pain scale. Patients were asked to report how long it took to become pain free. Everyone was asked if the results of the operation were satisfactory. The closed group had much better pain relief in the first week after surgery. Overall time to reach a pain free period was the same for both groups (about two months).

The authors conclude that arthroscopic surgery is successful for rotator cuff tears of all sizes. Patient reports of decreased pain and increased mobility makes this operation a good choice.


Eduard Buess, M.D., et al. Open Versus Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair: A Comparative View of 96 Cases. In Arthroscopy. May 2005. Vol. 21. No. 5. Pp. 597-604.

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