PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to compare shoulder joint biomechanics during abduction with and without intact non-functioning rotator cuff tissue.
METHODS: A cadaver model was devised to simulate the clinical findings seen in patients with a massive cuff tear. Eight full upper limb shoulder specimens were studied. Initially, the rotator cuff tendons were left intact, representing a non-functional rotator cuff, as seen in suprascapular nerve paralysis or in cuff repair with a patch. Subsequently, a massive rotator cuff tear was re-created. Three-dimensional kinematics and force requirements for shoulder abduction were analyzed for each condition using ten abduction cycles in the plane of the scapula.
RESULTS: Mediolateral displacements of the glenohumeral rotation center (GHRC) during abduction with an intact non-functioning cuff were minimal, but massive cuff tear resulted in significant lateral displacement of the GHRC (p < 0.013). Similarly, massive cuff tear caused increased superior migration of the GHRC during abduction compared with intact non-functional cuff (p < 0.01). From 5 to 30° of abduction, force requirements were significantly less with an intact non-functioning cuff than with massive cuff tear (p < 0.009).
CONCLUSION: During abduction, an intact but non-functioning rotator cuff resulted in decreased GHRC displacement in two axes as well as lowered the force requirement for abduction from 5 to 30° as compared with the results following a massive rotator cuff tear. This provides insight into the potential biomechanical effect of repairing massive rotator cuff tears with a biological or synthetic "patch," which is a new treatment for massive cuff tear.
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