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Arthroscopy. 2006 Jun;22(6):581-6.

Stiffness and rotator cuff tears: incidence, arthroscopic findings, and treatment results.

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Ocean County Sports Medicine Center, Toms River, New Jersey, USA.



Although stiffness of the shoulder has been evaluated after rotator cuff repair, it has not been studied in patients with cuff tears that occurred before repair. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether preoperative stiffness persists after cuff repair. We also evaluated the incidence and possible causes of stiffness in patients who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.


This was a retrospective evaluation of 72 arthroscopic patients who underwent rotator cuff repair. Preoperative range-of-motion (ROM) deficits in abduction, forward flexion, external rotation, and internal rotation were recorded and were added together to determine the total ROM deficit (TROMD). Patients were then divided into 3 groups on the basis of TROMD. Group 1 comprised 42 patients with 0 degrees to 20 degrees TROMD. Group 2 consisted of 24 patients with 25 degrees to 70 degrees TROMD, and group 3 included 6 patients with a TROMD greater than 70 degrees. Preoperative medical history, intraoperative condition of the capsule and bursa, and cuff tear size were recorded.


Capsular and bursal abnormalities were more common in stiffer patients, but arthroscopic evidence of adhesive capsulitis was found only in group 3 (3 of 6 patients). Postoperatively, average TROMD deficit decreased from 10 degrees to 4 degrees in group 1, from 36 degrees to 12 degrees in group 2, and from 89 degrees to 31 degrees in group 3. No reoperations or postoperative manipulations were reported in group 1 or 2. In group 3, 3 patients (the only 3 with adhesive capsulitis) showed no or minimal improvement in postoperative ROM. These 3 patients required a secondary arthroscopic capsular release. After all 3 repairs had completely healed, the TROMD averaged 35 degrees in this subgroup.


Preoperative stiffness is common in patients who undergo rotator cuff repair. Mild and moderate stiffness generally resolve after surgery followed by routine therapy. Patients with a TROMD of 70 degrees or more may have adhesive capsulitis as well as a cuff tear and may not do well with cuff repair alone.


Level IV, case series.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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