Subacromial decompression and debridement of partial-thickness bursal-sided rotator cuff tears are often reported with a high rate of unsatisfactory outcomes. We describe an arthroscopic procedure to repair partial-thickness bursal-sided rotator cuff tears without converting to a full-thickness tear in patients with a normal articular-sided rotator cuff and an A0B2 or A0B3 pattern of tear (minimum thickness of 25% to 75%). The articular side of the rotator cuff experiences greater tension than the bursal side of the cuff. As such, by leaving the articular footprint intact, we accomplish 3 goals: the intact articular fibers act as an internal splint to protect the bursal-sided repair, a wide and anatomic footprint is recreated, and we are able to minimize any length-tension mismatch because the tissue is not excessively lateralized with repair. After bursectomy and acromioplasty, the frayed edges of the bursal flap are gently debrided and the tuberosity is excoriated to bleeding bone.
One or two bioabsorbable anchors are placed, and both sutures are placed through the full thickness of the rotator cuff (one anterior and one posterior) by use of a percutaneous suture lasso in this manner: (1) the lasso is passed through the full thickness of the cuff, and the nitinol wire is shuttled out of a single cannula along with the more medial of the suture limbs; (2) the nitinol wire is then pulled back out of the percutaneous portal along with the suture limb, with the suture being passed through the full thickness of the cuff; and (3) the procedure is repeated for the posterior limb of the suture after a lasso is again passed through the full thickness of the rotator cuff in a more posterior position. This subset of patients is treated with an aggressive rehabilitation protocol because the intact articular rotator cuff fibers act as an internal splint to protect the bursal repair.
This article first appeared in Arthroscopy 22: 1247.e1-1247.e4, 2006 Nov.