BACKGROUND: Transfer of the latissimus dorsi tendon to the greater tuberosity of the humerus for treatment of an irreparable rotator cuff tear has been reported to yield good-to-excellent short to intermediate-term results in well-selected patients. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the long-term outcome of such transfers for irreparable posterosuperior rotator cuff tears to determine the durability of the results and to identify risk factors for an unfavorable outcome.
METHODS: Fifty-seven shoulders in fifty-five patients (seventeen women and thirty-eight men with a mean age of fifty-six years) were managed with latissimus dorsi tendon transfer. Final follow-up was performed at a mean of 147 months. Outcome measures included the Constant score and the Subjective Shoulder Value (SSV). Osteoarthritis, the acromiohumeral distance, and the so-called critical shoulder angle were assessed on standardized radiographs.
RESULTS: Forty-six shoulders in forty-four patients were available at the time of final follow-up. The mean SSV increased from 29% preoperatively to 70% at the time of final follow-up, the relative Constant score improved from 56% to 80%, and the pain score improved from 7 to 13 points (p < 0.0001 for all). Mean flexion increased from 118° to 132°, abduction increased from 112° to 123°, and external rotation increased from 18° to 33°. Mean abduction strength increased from 1.2 to 2.0 kg (p = 0.001). There was a slight but significant increase in osteoarthritic changes. Inferior results occurred in shoulders with insufficiency of the subscapularis muscle and fatty infiltration of the teres minor muscle. Superior functional results were observed in shoulders with a small postoperative critical shoulder angle.
CONCLUSIONS: Latissimus dorsi tendon transfer offered an effective treatment for irreparable posterosuperior rotator cuff tears, with substantial and durable improvements in shoulder function and pain relief. Shoulders with fatty infiltration of the teres minor muscle and insufficiency of the subscapularis muscle tended to have inferior results, as did those with a large critical shoulder angle.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.