Treatment of subacromial pain and rotator cuff tears
Abstract: Shoulder pain is very common, affecting 14-21 % of the population at some time during their lifetime. The aims of this thesis were to improve the understanding of various aspects concerning the pathogenesis and treatment of subacromial pain and rotator cuff tears. Patients and healthy individuals were examined and compared in five studies:Study I) Seventy patients were retrospectively examined, clinically and with ultrasound, 15 years after arthroscopic subacromial decompression. All patients had an intact rotator cuff at surgery. Ultrasound showed significantly fewer rotator cuff tears compared to the prevalence of asymptomatic tears reported in the literature for the same age group. This indicates that arthroscopic subacromial decompression might protect the rotator cuff.Study II) Forty-two patients were retrospectively examined, clinically and with ultrasound, 39 months (mean) after an acute rotator cuff repair. All patients had pseudoparalysis after trauma, a full thickness tear and no previous history of shoulder symptoms. A delay in surgical treatment of three months and the number of tendons injured did not affect the outcome. Age affected outcome negatively.Study III) Plasma samples from 17 patients with cuff tears and 16 plasma samples from healthy age- and gender-matched controls were collected and analysed regarding the levels of matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors, TIMP1-4. Elevated levels of TIMP-1 were found in the patients with cuff tears compared to controls. Higher levels of TIMP-1, TIMP-3 and MMP-9 were found in patients with full-thickness tears compared to patients with partial-thickness tears.Study IV) Ninety-seven patients with longstanding subacromial pain, on the waiting-list for arthroscopic subacromial decompression, were prospectively randomised to specific shoulder exercises or control exercises for three months. Thereafter they were clinically examined and asked if they still wanted surgery. The specific shoulder exercises focusing on eccentric exercise for the rotator cuff and scapula stabilisers were found to be effective in reducing subacromial pain and improving shoulder function, thereby reducing the need for surgery.Study V) All patients including those operated, in Study IV were re-examined after one year using clinical assessment scores. The option of surgery was continuously available up to the one-year follow-up. Ultrasound and radiological examinations performed at inclusion were analysed in relation to the choice of surgery. The positive effects of the specific exercise programme were maintained after one year and significantly fewer patients in this group chose surgery. Surgery was significantly more often chosen by patients who had a low baseline shoulder score, and/or a full thickness rotator cuff tear. All patients showed significant improvement in the clinical scores one year after inclusion or one year after surgery.These results support the concept that subacromial pain has a multifactorial aetiology and that the first line of treatment should be specific shoulder exercises. When conservative treatment fails, an acceptable result can be achieved with arthroscopic subacromial decompression. The rotator cuff status is important to consider when treating and studying these patients.
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