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Elderly Can Benefit From Rotator Cuff Surgery, Too

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The patients were brought back an average of nine years after the initial procedure and rechecked. They were tested for range of motion and strength, put through two standard evaluations, and asked about patient satisfaction and pain.

The researchers report that subjectively the patients were highly satisfied and all but three of the 47 continued to report subjective improvements. Objectively, only 10% of the procedures were classified as unsatisfactory, while 51% were satisfactory and 39% were excellent. No patient who was rated satisfactory or better developed an unsatisfactory result with the passage of time. Only two patients saw their condition deteriorate, each due to a golf injury.

The size of the tear had direct bearing on the outcome of the patient. All patients with small or medium tears had excellent or satisfactory results. Patients with large and massive tears had more varied results.

"I think there was a fear that the tissues of the rotator cuff [in older people] weren't going to be adequate to allow them to be repaired to begin with," says McGillivary, noting that older people are more likely to have a larger cuff tear due to deterioration. "I think this demonstrates that this is not necessarily the case, but I think a lot of [orthopaedists] knew this anyway."

The bottom line, says McGillivary, "is that just because you are 75 and having a lot of shoulder pain from your cuff doesn't mean that it is not correctable if the [conservative approach] doesn't work."

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