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This study aimed to compare the clinical outcomes of rotator cuff repair in patients with rheumatoid arthritis with those of patients who have no known history of the disease. We hypothesised that the functional outcomes are comparable between patients and without rheumatoid arthritis and may be affected by the level of disease activity, as assessed from C-reactive protein (CRP) level and history of systemic steroid intake.We conducted a retrospective review of the institutional surgical database from May 1995 to April 2012. Twenty-nine patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had rotator cuff repair were enrolled as the study group. Age, sex, and tear size matched patients with no disease who were selected as the control group. The mean duration of follow-up was 46 months (range 24-92 months). Clinical outcomes were assessed with the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) questionnaire, Constant score and visual analogue scale (VAS). All data were recorded preoperatively and at regular postoperative follow-up visits. CRP was measured preoperatively as the disease activity marker for rheumatoid arthritis. Medication history was thoroughly reviewed in the study group.In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, all shoulder functional scores improved after surgery (ASES 56.1-78.1, Constant 50.8-70.5 and VAS 5.2-2.5; P < 0.001). The functional outcome of surgery in patients with rheumatoid arthritis was comparable to that of the control group (difference with control: ASES 78.1 vs. 85.5, P = 0.093; Constant 70.5 vs. 75.9, P = 0.366; VAS 2.5 vs. 1.8, P = 0.108). Patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had an elevated CRP level (> 1 mg/dl) showed inferior clinical outcomes than those with normal CRP levels. Patients with a history of systemic steroid intake showed inferior functional outcomes than those who had not taken steroids.Surgical intervention for rotator cuff tear in patients with rheumatoid arthritis improved the shoulder functional outcome comparable to that in matched patients without rheumatoid arthritis. Elevated preoperative CRP level and history of systemic steroid intake portend inferior functional outcome in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.