Muscle architectural changes after massive human rotator cuff tear

Gibbons MC, Sato EJ, Bachasson D, Cheng T, Azimi H, Schenk S, Engler AJ, Singh A, Ward SR.
J Orthop Res, 2016 34(12):2089-2095. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


Rotator cuff (RC) tendon tears lead to negative structural and functional changes in the associated musculature. The structural features of muscle that predict function are termed "muscle architecture." Although the architectural features of "normal" rotator cuff muscles are known, they are poorly understood in the context of cuff pathology. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of tear and repair on RC muscle architecture. To this end thirty cadaveric shoulders were grouped into one of four categories based on tear magnitude: Intact, Full-thickness tear (FTT), Massive tear (MT), or Intervention if sutures or hardware were present, and key parameters of muscle architecture were measured. We found that muscle mass and fiber length decreased proportionally with tear size, with significant differences between all groups. Conversely, sarcomere number was reduced in both FTT and MT with no significant difference between these two groups, in large part because sarcomere length was significantly reduced in MT but not FTT. The loss of muscle mass in FTT is due, in part, to subtraction of serial sarcomeres, which may help preserve sarcomere length. This indicates that function in FTT may be impaired, but there is some remaining mechanical loading to maintain "normal" sarcomere length-tension relationships. However, the changes resulting from MT suggest more severe limitations in force-generating capacity because sarcomere length-tension relationships are no longer normal. The architectural deficits observed in MT muscles may indicate deeper deficiencies in muscle adaptability to length change, which could negatively impact RC function despite successful anatomical repair.

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