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Phys Sportsmed. 2015 May;43(2):178-87. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1025683. Epub 2015 Mar 22.

Early versus delayed rehabilitation following arthroscopic rotator cuff repair: A systematic review.

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Jefferson Medical College , Philadelphia, PA , USA.



Early passive range of motion (ROM) following arthroscopic cuff repair is thought to decrease postoperative stiffness and improve functionality. However, early aggressive rehabilitation may compromise repair integrity. Our purpose was to perform a systematic review to determine if there are differences between early and delayed rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair in terms of clinical outcomes and healing.


We performed a literature search with the terms 'arthroscopic rotator cuff', 'immobilization', 'early', 'delayed', 'late', and 'rehabilitation' using PubMed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and EMBASE. Selection criteria included: level I/II evidence ≤ 6 months in duration, comparing early versus delayed rehabilitation following arthroscopic repair. Data regarding demographics, sample sizes, duration, cuff pathology, surgery, rehabilitation, functional outcomes, pain, ROM and anatomic assessment of healing were analyzed. PRIMSA criteria were followed.


We identified six articles matching our criteria. Three reported significantly increased functional scores within the first 3-6 months with early rehabilitation compared to the delayed group, only one of which continued to observe a difference at a final follow-up of 15 months. Four articles showed improved ROM in the first 3-6 months post-operatively with early rehabilitation. One noted transient differences in pain scores. Only one study noted significant differences in ROM at final follow-up. No study reported any significant difference in rates of rotator cuff re-tear. However, two studies noted a trend towards increased re-tear with early rehabilitation that did not reach significance. This was more pronounced in studies including medium-large tears.


Early rehabilitation after arthroscopic cuff repair is associated with some initial improvements in ROM and function. Ultimately, similar clinical and anatomical outcomes between groups existed at 1 year. While there was no significant difference between groups in anatomic failure of the repaired cuff, there may be a trend towards increased re-tear with larger tears.


Rehabilitation; rotator cuff; shoulder; surgery

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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