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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1998 Jul;80(7):1002-11.

Continuous passive motion after repair of the rotator cuff. A prospective outcome study.

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Department of Orthopaedics, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Despite the apparent success of continuous passive motion after soft-tissue procedures or joint replacements, its effect after repair of the rotator cuff is still unknown. The purpose of this prospective, randomized outcome study was to compare the results of continuous passive motion with those of manual passive range-of-motion exercises after repair of the rotator cuff. Thirty-one patients (thirty-two rotator cuffs) were randomly assigned to one of two types of postoperative management: continuous passive motion (seventeen patients) or manual passive range-of-motion exercises (fifteen patients). There were seventeen women and fourteen men, and the mean age was sixty-three years (range, thirty to eighty years). The patients were followed for a mean of twenty-two months (range, six to forty-five months). Five tears of the rotator cuff were small, eighteen were medium, and nine were large. All of the operations were performed by one surgeon. The patients who were managed with continuous passive motion used the device for the first four weeks postoperatively. The patients who were managed with manual passive range-of-motion exercises were assisted by a trained relative, friend, or home-care nurse. After the four-week period, the two groups were managed similarly for two to five months. According to the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index, a valid and reliable self-administered questionnaire, the treatment was extremely successful in both groups. The overall score was excellent for twenty-seven shoulders (84 per cent), good for two (6 per cent), fair for two (7 per cent), and poor for one (3 per cent). With the numbers available, we could detect no significant differences (p > 0.05) between the two groups with respect to the score according to the Index, pain (according to a visual-analog scale), range of motion, or isometric strength. Manual passive range-of-motion exercises were more cost-effective than continuous passive motion. The limited number of physical-therapy visits associated with the manual passive range-of-motion exercises in the present study appeared to be more cost-effective than a traditional physical-therapy schedule of three visits per week. Postoperative therapy with continuous passive motion or manual passive range-of-motion exercises appears to yield favorable results after repair of a small, medium, or large tear of the rotator cuff.

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