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J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2012 Feb;21(2):164-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2011.09.027.

Muscle degeneration in rotator cuff tears.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


Rotator cuff tears are among the most common injuries seen by orthopedic surgeons. Although small- and medium-sized tears do well after arthroscopic and open repair, large and massive tears have been shown to develop marked muscle atrophy and fatty infiltration within the rotator cuff muscles. These pathologic changes have been found to be independent predictors of failed surgical repair with poor functional outcomes. To understand the pathophysiology of rotator cuff disease, we must first develop an understanding of the changes that occur within the cuff muscles themselves. The purpose of this review is to summarize the molecular pathways behind muscular degeneration and emphasize new findings related to the clinical relevance of muscle atrophy and fatty infiltration seen with rotator cuff tears. Understanding these molecular pathways will help guide further research and treatment options that can aim to alter expression of these pathways and improve outcomes after surgical repair of massive rotator cuff tears.

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