Comparison of Clinical and Structural Outcomes by Subscapularis Tendon Status in Massive Rotator Cuff Tear

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The subscapularis tendon is essential in maintaining normal glenohumeral biomechanics. However, few studies have addressed the outcomes of tears extending to the subscapularis tendon in massive rotator cuff tears.


To assess the clinical and structural outcomes of arthroscopic repair of massive rotator cuff tears involving the subscapularis.

Study Design:

Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.


Between January 2010 and January 2014, 122 consecutive patients with massive rotator cuff tear underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. Overall, 122 patients were enrolled (mean age, 66 years; mean follow-up period, 39.5 months). Patients were categorized into 3 groups based on subscapularis tendon status: intact subscapularis tendon (I group; n = 45), tear involving less than the superior one-third (P group; n = 35), and tear involving more than one-third of the subscapularis tendon (C group; n = 42). All rotator cuff tears were repaired; however, subscapularis tendon tears involving less than the superior one-third in P group were only debrided. Pain visual analog scale, Constant, and American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons scores and passive range of motion were measured preoperatively and at the final follow-up. Rotator cuff integrity, global fatty degeneration index, and occupation ratio were determined via magnetic resonance imaging preoperatively and 6 months postoperatively.


We identified 37 retears (31.1%) based on postoperative magnetic resonance imaging evaluation. Retear rate in patients in the C group (47.6%) was higher than that in the I group (22.9%) or P group (20.0%) (P = .011). Retear subclassification based on the involved tendons showed that subsequent subscapularis tendon retears were noted in only the C group. The improvement in clinical scores after repair was statistically significant in all groups but not different among the groups. Between-group comparison showed significant differences in preoperative external rotation (P = .021). However, no statistically significant difference was found in any shoulder range of motion measurements after surgery.


Arthroscopic repair of massive tears results in substantial improvements in shoulder function, despite the presence of combined subscapularis tears. However, this study showed a high failure rate of massive posterosuperior rotator cuff tear repair extending more than one-third of the subscapularis tendon. When combined subscapularis tendon tear was less than the superior one-third of the subscapularis tendon, arthroscopic debridement was a reasonable treatment method where comparable clinical and anatomic outcomes could be expected.

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