New Tools Improve Shoulder Repair

Biologic patches boost recovery from rotator cuff tears-but surgery should be performed as soon as possible after injury.

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Rotator-cuff tears are a common cause of shoulder pain, particularly in older adults. Recent estimates suggest that nearly 40 percent of people over age 50 have partial or full-thickness rotator-cuff tears, and the prevalence increases with age. Treatment may vary from rehabilitation to surgical repair, depending on the severity of symptoms, the patients age, smoking status, and the age of the tear, according to Joseph Iannotti, MD, PhD, chairman of Cleveland Clinics Orthopaedic and Rheumatologic Institute. "Smokers have substantially worse outcomes from surgery, regardless of their age," Dr. Iannotti says. "Patients over 70 have substantially worse outcomes than people under age 70. And tears that are more than two to three months old also have substantially worse outcomes than tears that are repaired sooner. So if you fall on your shoulder, for example, and you have pain, clicking, or weakness in a previously healthy shoulder, you should get diagnosed right away."
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