Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

Two years ago I tore my rotator cuff in a car accident. Surgery to repair it worked great. Six months ago I injured that shoulder again. The first repair ruptured and I had a second tendon torn on top of it. Two more surgeries have been unsuccessful. Is it possible to get a tendon transplant? Seems like they can replace just about everything else in the body.

Answer:

There have been a couple of studies done on the use of allograft rotator cuff tendon repairs. An allograft refers to a tendon from a donor. Most often the Achilles, patellar, or quadriceps tendons are used for this operation.

One study reported this was an excellent way to repair massive rotator cuff tears (RCTs). The second study was not as successful with poor results overall. In a more recent study, researchers at the University of California - Los Angeles report on the results of 28 shoulders with massive RCTs. Everyone was treated using an allograft.

Pain improved. Range of motion and function were also better. But MRIs showed that the graft didn't hold in place. Without the balance of all four tendons of the rotator cuff around the shoulder, the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) started drifting upward out of the socket.

The results of the allograft operation were not better than other methods of repair and it cost a lot more. There is also the possibility of graft infection and rejection.

With your history it's best to discuss your options with one (or more) orthopedic surgeons. There are other ways to treat this problem with a better track record than tendon transplantation.

David R. Moore, MD, et al. Allograft Reconstruction for Massive, Irreparable Rotator Cuff Tears. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March 2006. Vol. 34. No. 3. Pp. 392-396.

*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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