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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 43  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 137-142

Difference between early versus delayed postoperative physical rehabilitation protocol following arthroscopic rotator cuff repair

1 Department of Rheumatology and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt
2 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt

Correspondence Address:
Samar M Fawzy
17 sheikh Ali Youssife street Moniera Kaser El Eeini, Cairo
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1110-161X.189823

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Background Early passive motion exercise has been the standard rehabilitation protocol following rotator cuff repair. However, recent research studies show that longer immobilization may enhance tendon healing. Aim The aim of this study was to compare early passive range of motion (ROM) exercise with a delayed rehabilitation protocol with regard to the effectiveness of stiffness reduction and functional improvements and rates of tendon healing in patients undergoing arthroscopic repair for torn rotator cuffs. Patients and methods This study was performed on 164 patients having a full-thickness tear of the supraspinatus muscle that was repaired using the arthroscopic single-row suture anchor technique along with subacromial decompression. The patients were divided into two groups, early (group 1) and delayed ROM (group 2). In group 1, 78 patients were started on passive elevation and rotation exercises on the second day after surgery. In group 2, 86 patients had their shoulder immobilized for 6 weeks, after which passive motion exercise was started. Patients were followed-up clinically for a minimum of 12 months, and rotator cuff healing was assessed using MRI. Results Both groups had a statistically significant difference between preoperative and postoperative results. As regards American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon scores, the early group improved from 45.4 preoperatively to 90.9 postoperatively (P<0.0001) and the delayed group improved from 44.59 preoperatively to 91.6 postoperatively (P<0.0001). As regards Constant score, the early group improved from 35.7 preoperatively to 86.5 postoperatively (P<0.0001) and the delayed group improved from 37.8 preoperatively to 88.1 postoperatively (P<0.0001). However, there were no statistically significant differences in rotator cuff healing between the two groups. The follow-up mean of visual analog scale was significantly better in group 2 compared with group 1 at 6 weeks postoperatively but no difference was found after 3 months. In contrast, ROM was better in group 1 compared with group 2 at 6 months postoperatively but no difference was found after 1 year. Conclusion Significant improvement in pain, ROM, and function after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair was seen at 1 year postoperatively, regardless of early or delayed postoperative rehabilitation protocols. However, early motion increases pain scores and may increase the possibility of rotator cuff retear but with early regain of ROM. A delayed rehabilitation protocol with immobilization for 6 weeks would be better for tendon healing without risk for retear or joint stiffness and easily convalescence with less postoperative pain.

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