Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery Shows Better Results Over Physiotherapy

A 10 year study comparing surgery vs. physiotherapy proves rotator cuff repair surgery shows better results over physiotherapy. This is especially true for small and medium size rotator cuff tears and younger patients. 

The Back and Forth

Someone who experiences progressive degeneration or wear and tear in the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint may eventually suffer a tear. This usually affects those who perform repetitive overhead motions in their day-to-day life, especially career athletes such as professional tennis or baseball players. 

This injury can also occur as a result of just one traumatic event. Without treatment, it may lead to permanent loss of motion and weakness. 

There have been back and forth discussions over the years as to whether rotator cuff surgery is any better than physiotherapy. The latest and longest such study was just released, and it provides a definitive verdict. 

anatomy showing rotator cuff tear

A 10 Year Study

This recent study is the longest to date on this subject.  Researchers looked at 103 patients with rotator cuff tears no larger than 3 cm, who were chosen at random to undergo surgery or receive physiotherapy.

Post-operative follow up exams were done at 6 months, 1, 2, 5, and 10 years. At the end of the 10 years, 91 of the original 103 patients completed the study.

The Major Results

Of the original patients who only had physiotherapy, 14 opted for surgery later on. 

The final results are as follows:

  • The surgical repair group experienced better results, with less pain, better patient satisfaction, and had a greater range of motion after 10 years.
  • Those 41% who did not have secondary surgery ended up with larger tears, some of which even exceeded 10 cm in size. 
  • Although both groups had each noted improvement during the first 2 years, by the end of the study, shoulder function remained stable in the surgical group, but declined in the physiotherapy group.

To summarize, any unrepaired shoulder cuff tears eventually widened over time, and shoulder function deteriorated. In the end, it led to worse outcomes. Therefore, shoulder cuff repair surgery is better for the long term, especially for younger patients who wish to lead an active lifestyle. 

Consult with Samuel Koo, MD, MPH if you have questions or suspect you may have a rotator cuff tear. A simple evaluation should reveal if you could benefit from minimally invasive surgery to repair your shoulder injury!

As always, if you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (425) 823-4000 or request an appointment online today!