Graft Utilization in the Bridging Reconstruction of Irreparable Rotator Cuff Tears: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Background:

Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common conditions affecting the shoulder. Because of the difficulty in managing massive rotator cuff tears and the inability of standard techniques to prevent arthropathy, surgeons have developed several novel techniques to improve outcomes and ideally alter the natural history.

Purpose:

To systematically review the existing literature and analyze reported outcomes to evaluate the effectiveness of using a bridging graft reconstruction technique to treat large to massive irreparable rotator cuff tears.

Study Design:

Systematic review.

Methods:

A systematic search of PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and CENTRAL was employed with the key terms “tear,” “allograft,” and “rotator cuff.” Eligibility was determined by a 3-phase screening process according to the outlined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Data in relation to the primary and secondary outcomes were summarized. The results were synthesized according to the origin of the graft and the level of evidence.

Results:

Fifteen studies in total were included in this review: 2 comparative studies and 13 observational case series. Both the biceps tendon and the fascia lata autograft groups had significantly superior structural integrity rates on magnetic resonance imaging at 12-month minimum follow-up when compared with their partial primary repair counterparts (58% vs 26%, P = .036; 79% vs 58%, P < .05), respectively. Multiple noncomparative case series investigating allografts, xenografts, and synthetic materials for bridging reconstruction of large to massive rotator cuff tears demonstrated high structural healing rates (74%-90%, 73%-100%, and 60%-90%, respectively). Additionally, both comparative studies and case series demonstrated a general improvement of patients’ functional outcome scores.

Conclusion:

Using a graft for an anatomic bridging rotator cuff repair results in improved function on objective testing and may be functionally better than nonanatomic or partial repair of large to massive rotator cuff tears. Allograft or xenograft techniques appear to be favorable options, given demonstrated functional improvement, imaging-supported graft survival, and lack of harvest complication risk. More high-quality randomized controlled studies are needed to further assess this technique.

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