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Associations Between Variables in Individuals with Symptomatic Isolated Supraspinatus Tears

October 11, 2022

A study recently published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery to discuss rotator cuff tears was conducted by several orthopaedic experts including UPMC Orthopaedic Care physician Volker Musahl, MD.

Clinical failure associated with nonoperative treatment of rotator cuff tears may be due to inadequate characterization of the individual's functional impairments. Clinically, restricted passive range of motion (ROM) (restrictions imply capsular tightness), limitations in muscle strength, and larger rotator cuff tears are hypothesized to be related to altered glenohumeral kinematics. Understanding these relationships, as well as the relationship between glenohumeral kinematics and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) prior to exercise therapy, may help characterize functional impairments in individuals with rotator cuff tears.

The objectives of the study were to describe the baseline presentation of individuals with an isolated supraspinatus tear, including passive ROM, rotator cuff muscle strength, tear size, PROs, and glenohumeral kinematics, and to determine associations among these variables.

In this study, one hundred one individuals with symptomatic isolated supraspinatus tears were recruited and underwent assessments of passive glenohumeral ROM, isometric muscle strength, and ultrasonography to assess anterior-posterior tear size. Glenohumeral kinematics during scapular-plane abduction were measured using biplane radiography. Furthermore, PROs including the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score and the Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index (WORC) score were collected.

Individuals presented with decreased ROM, external rotation weakness compared with the uninvolved side, and pain and disability as measured by the ASES and WORC scores. These findings were not associated with glenohumeral kinematics, with the exception of a weak positive association between glenohumeral contact path lengths and WORC scores.

In conclusion, individuals with a symptomatic isolated supraspinatus tear presented with decreased ROM, external rotation weakness, and pain and disability as measured by the ASES and WORC scores. However, no abnormal kinematics associated with these limitations were observed. Thus, given that the tear is isolated to the supraspinatus tendon and no capsular restrictions are present, normal function of the glenohumeral joint may be possible during scapular-plane abduction.

Read more about this study on PubMed.

Other study authors include: