Massive Rotator Cuff Tears in Patients Older Than Sixty-five: Indications for Cuff Repair versus Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty

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Overall, those patients selected for rTSA in our study population performed well postoperatively (Figure 2 and Figure 3). Vast improvements were noted in range of motion, function, and pain scores at final follow up. Moreover, no patients in the study group required revision arthroplasty during the follow-up period. Although the average follow-up period was only 47 months, these results suggested that elderly patients with MCT without arthritis may be particularly ideal candidates for rTSA with regard to implant survival and anticipated revision rate when chosen appropriately.

Several weaknesses were noted within this paper. First, the study was retrospective, precluding randomization of treatment groups and standardization of data collection and follow-up. The outcomes of RCR and rTSA could not be compared directly due to the inherent selection bias. The groups clearly differed in many respects, and these preoperative factors likely played a role in postoperative outcomes. However, the primary goal of this study was not to compare outcomes of the treatment groups but to analyze the patterns of patient selection by an experienced treating surgeon and contribute to published data that each surgery can be successful in this patient population when chosen appropriately.

Second, our data were based on a single surgeon’s decisions, and results may not be generalizable. Furthermore, the senior author has had a longstanding interest in reverse shoulder arthroplasty and has published data illustrating successful outcomes for rTSA in patients with MCT. For this reason, one could presume that there may have been some bias toward treating patients with rTSA. However, we feel that the senior author’s unique and longstanding experience in treating MCT allows for a thorough evaluation and comparison of preoperative variables and outcomes declared within this study. Indeed, many patients included in this study were referred from outside institutions specifically for rTSA but instead were deemed more appropriate candidates for RCR and underwent successful arthroscopic repair, a common scenario which served as an impetus for this study.


RCR and rTSA are both viable options for patients >65 years with MCT without arthritis. Treatment must be individualized for each patient with careful consideration of a number of preoperative variables and patient characteristics. At our institution, patients with previous RCR, decreased range of motion, poor function, and strong radiographic evidence of subluxation are more likely to undergo rTSA. When chosen appropriately, both RCR and rTSA can result in improved range of motion, function, and high patient satisfaction in this patient population.


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