Does application of abduction brace after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair improve blood flow around posterosuperior rotator cuff and repair site, affecting pain levels and clinical and structural outcomes? A pilot randomized controlled trial

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JSES International


Background: As per some cadaveric studies, blood flow in posterosuperior rotator cuff tendons improves in the abducted shoulder position compared with the neutral position. In a clinical post–rotator cuff repair scenario, the impact of abduction on altered blood flow in and around the posterosuperior rotator cuff tendons is unknown in terms of clinical outcomes and structural healing. Materials and methods: This study included 42 eligible patients aged between 40 and 70 years with clinically diagnosed and radiologically confirmed rotator cuff tears undergoing arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. Patients were randomly allocated to undergo application of either an abduction brace (group 1) or an arm pouch (group 2). On postoperative day 1, power Doppler scanning was performed on the index shoulder in adduction and 30° of abduction in each patient; the allocated treatment (abduction brace or arm pouch) was then applied. Power Doppler scanning was repeated at 6 weeks in the immobilization position assigned to the patient (abduction or adduction). The vascular flow in 6 regions was noted as per the criteria of Fealy et al. A visual analog scale score was assessed preoperatively and at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 56 weeks postoperatively. Clinical assessment was performed with the Constant-Murley score at 1 year, and structural healing of the cuff was assessed using ultrasonography at 3 and 12 months. Result: On the first postoperative day, blood flow was significantly higher in all 6 areas of the shoulder in group 1 than in group 2. The mean total vascular score was significantly higher in group 1 than in group 2 on postoperative day 1 (P =.0001) and remained so at 6 weeks (P =.0001). However, significantly higher vascular flow was noted only in the peribursal region at 6 weeks in group 1 (P =.04). No significant difference in the visual analog scale score was noted between the 2 groups at any given point of follow-up. Furthermore, no clinical and structural healing differences were noted between the 2 groups at final follow-up. Conclusion: Higher blood flow in and around the posterosuperior rotator cuff owing to an abducted shoulder position with an abduction brace in the first 6 weeks postoperatively fails to offer any advantage in terms of lower pain levels, better clinical scores, or superior cuff healing.

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