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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2004 Feb;86-A(2):355-62.

The effect of comorbidity on self-assessed function in patients with a chronic rotator cuff tear.

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  • 1University Orthopedics, Inc., 2 Dudley Street, Suite 200, Providence, RI 02905, USA.



The results of preoperative assessment of factors that might affect the outcome of orthopaedic surgery have rarely been studied. In this study, we evaluated the relationship between the number of medical comorbidities and the preoperative performance on outcome assessment tools in patients with a chronic rotator cuff tear.


One-hundred and ninety-nine patients (206 shoulders) with a chronic rotator cuff tear who were treated with surgery were evaluated preoperatively with a detailed history (including medical comorbidities), physical examination, and the following outcome instruments: (1) the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, (2) the Simple Shoulder Test, (3) visual analog scales (pain, function, and quality of life), and (4) the Short Form-36 (SF-36).


The patients had a mean of 2.07 comorbidities (range, zero to seven comorbidities). With use of univariate regression analysis, a greater number of comorbidities was associated with worse function (DASH [p = 0.0064], Simple Shoulder Test [p = 0.0001 for the best-case scenario and p = 0.0009 for the worst-case scenario], and visual analog scale for function [p = 0.0003] and increased pain [p = 0.05]) and with worse general health status (physical function [p < 0.0001], role-physical [p = 0.0286], general health [p < 0.0001], vitality [p = 0.0014], social function [p = 0.0004], role-emotional [p = 0.0003], and visual analog scale for quality of life [p = 0.0102]). These results were confirmed with significant associations (p < 0.05) between the number of comorbidities and the scores on the Simple Shoulder Test; DASH questionnaire; visual analog scales for function, pain, and quality of life; and seven of the eight items (all but mental health) on the SF-36 in a multivariate regression analysis, which included age, gender, Workers' Compensation status, number of previous operations, smoking history, size of the tear, duration of symptoms, and average patient expectations as possible confounding variables.


Medical comorbidities have a negative impact on patient-reported preoperative baseline pain, function, and general health status associated with chronic rotator cuff tears. We postulate that this effect may ultimately influence the evaluation of the results of surgical treatment of rotator cuff tears and should be considered when treating patients and analyzing outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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