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Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2009 Apr;95(2):108-13. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2008.10.002. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

Results of latissimus dorsi tendon transfer for irreparable cuff tears.

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  • 1Santy Orthopaedic Private Hospital, 24, avenue Paul-Santy, 69008 Lyon, France.


Rupture of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon (and teres minor) can cause loss of active external rotation (ER), entailing severe functional disability in daily activities. Latissimus dorsi tendon transfer (LDTT), proposed by Gerber in 1988, appears to be the best adapted solution in these cases of irreparable posterior and superior cuff tears. Between 2001 and 2004, 30 patients were operated on by the technique described by Gerber, with the transfer fixed anteriorly to the subscapularis tendon and laterally to the greater tuberosity by transosseous suture. One patient, subsequently requiring revision with a reversed prosthesis, was considered as a failure. Twenty-six patients were reviewed with a mean follow-up delay of 34+/-12 months. There were 14 men and 13 women. Mean age was 55.5 years (36 to 71 years). Preoperatively, active ER was symmetric in seven cases, loss of active ER was moderate with positive lag sign in five cases, significant with positive dropping sign in six cases, and severe in nine cases. Fatty muscular degeneration was present and significant in all cases for the infraspinatus muscle and in 14 cases for the teres minor muscle (associated with significant ER loss). Subjectively, 85% of the patients were very satisfied or satisfied and the Subjective Shoulder Value (SSV) was 68+/-17%. The pain score improved from 4.8+/-3 preoperatively to 12.2+/-2 postoperatively, strength from 3.7+/-2 kg to 4.2+/-1.8 kg, mean Constant score from 50+/-12 to 74+/-9, and Constant score adjusted for age and gender from 62+/-15% to 91+/-11%. Mean active ER gain was 7 degrees (-30 degrees to +50 degrees). The loss of active ER was aggravated in one case, unchanged in three, improved in nine and corrected in six. Hornblower sign was corrected in six cases and persisted in nine. Postoperatively, 8% of the patients were unable to eat and drink, compared to 64.7% preoperatively. The results of this series are comparable to those found in the literature for first-intention cases. LDTT restored active ER, but the results were incomplete and variable. Improvement was better in case of severe preoperative active ER deficit and insufficiency of the teres minor muscle. Recovery of strength was not observed in the present series. A narrow subacromial space and grade-3 Hamada classification had negative impact. In spite of an expected tenodesis effect, LDTT did not recenter the humeral head. LDTT compensates the deficient teres minor muscle rather than the infraspinatus muscle. The optimal indication for LDTT is irreparable superior and posterior rotator cuff rupture with loss of active ER associated with a deficient teres minor muscle. It is debatable whether LDTT is indicated in the absence of active motion deficiency: improvement was observed in these cases, but only in terms of subjective criteria.

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