Open rotator cuff repairs in patients 70 years and older


  • B. R. De Carvalho MBChB; A. Puri, FRCS Irel, FRACS (Ortho); J. A. Calder FRACS (Ortho).

  • Ethics Approval: Health and Disability Ethics Committees (New Zealand) – Northern Y Ethics Committee.

  • Approval Number: NTY/10/EXP/01.

Dr Bruno R. De Carvalho, Orthopaedic Department, Tauranga Hospital, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand. Email:


Background:  Symptomatic rotator cuff tear is a commonly diagnosed problem in patients over the age of 70; however, there is controversy regarding the management of this condition. We set out to investigate whether this group has satisfactory results with operative management of their rotator cuff tears.

Methods:  Retrospective review of one surgeon's patients who have undergone an open rotator cuff repair at age 70 or older. Outcome assessment included history of work and recreational activities, review of medical records, clinical examination, the Simple Shoulder Test (SST) and the Constant Shoulder Score (CSS).

Results:  A total of 96 patients (104 shoulders) underwent open rotator cuff repair during the study period. Sixteen patients (16 shoulders) were lost to follow-up leaving 80 patients (88 shoulders) for review. Mean duration of symptoms was 18.3 months, mean age at surgery was 74.2 years and mean time to follow-up was 40.8 months. The mean SST and CSS scores were 9.8 and 80.1, respectively. In both tests, patients scored best in the pain relief categories and worst in strength-measuring areas. A total of 73 patients (92.7%) reported satisfaction with their surgery. None of these were limited by their shoulders in returning to pre-injury independence, work or recreations. They were either completely pain free or had only mild symptoms.

Conclusion:  Patients in our study reflected a high satisfaction rate of 92.7% as well as excellent pain relief and a high level of function when related to their daily activities, independence and recreations or work.

Level of evidence:  Level IV (observational study without control – retrospective study).