Surgery for Big Rotator Cuff Tears Has High Retear Rates…

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rotator cuff surgery retear rates

Rotator Cuff tears can be tricky. I think to best understand them, you need to ask your self why they happen in the first place. While some result from trauma, the vast majority of rotator cuff tears happen from simple wear and tear as we age.  Why would the most important group of muscles in the shoulder fail, and when surgically repaired, do these repairs hold? A recent large review study doesn’t demonstrate much confidence in long term results, given arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery retear rates.

So what exactly is the Rotator Cuff? The rotator cuff is a complex series of muscles around the shoulder that help to lift the arm and stabilize the ball in the socket. Surprising to most people, the most common scenario for a tear to occur is simply one slightly more demanding movement than usual. How could that happen?  It’s been known for a considerable amount of time that the rotator cuff doesn’t have the best blood supply, but blood supply varies to many areas of the body. The problem is actually a lack of healthy progenitor cells and stem cells to repair the damage as it occurs overtime, and at some point with little provocation, the damaged tissue simply fails and a tear occurs. Therefore, sewing  together failing tissue which has not been able to heal doesn’t make a lot of sense. In addition, the prolonged bracing needed after the rotator cuff surgery causes those same muscles to atrophy, further disrupting the area’s healing capability. Rather than causing extensive trauma to an already failing area, the tissue first needs to have its regenerative potential restored. This is what stem cell injections accomplish and both in our clinical experience, and recent studies, even many of these “massive” tears will heal themselves without the need for surgery once the local repair response is augmented with more stem cells.

The study was a large systematic review study of 18 papers following patients pre and post operatively who had “massive” rotator cuff tears. 954 patients, ages 37-87, half men and half women whose symptoms occurred an average of 2 years before surgery, of whom 81% had complete tears and 19% partial tears, were followed for 33 to 54 months. The results were concerning. While the surgery in many cases helped in the short term, the retear rate was a staggering 81%!

The upshot?  This was a large study whose results demonstrated what we already know. In most circumstances, the logic behind rotator cuff surgery is flawed. Attempting to fix something which is torn by further weakening it and expecting it to hold is illogical at best. Giving the area what it’s actually missing by using your own stem cells and not creating additional trauma or atrophy, simply makes more sense. If you know someone who has a rotator cuff tear who meets the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the Regenexx Rotator Cuff Stem Cell Study, they might be eligible for a Regenexx Rotator Cuff repair at no cost to them.

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This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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10 thoughts on “Surgery for Big Rotator Cuff Tears Has High Retear Rates…

  1. Barbara Neilson

    Please consider me as a candid as text for your stem cell treatment. .Sincerely,Barbara Neilson

    1. Regenexx Team


      Happy to consider you for Candidacy. Please submit the Candidate form here:

  2. Timothy r zarger

    My name is Tim zarger and my left and right schoulder have been repaired after massive tears the left retore again within 5 weeks and dr Martin Coleman told me to go away he wasn’t going to try to fix it again orthopedic and spine center Newport News va . I went dr Payne tidewater orthopedics Hampton va he put cadaver ligament in there I can’t lift either arm.9

    1. Regenexx Team

      How did these massive tears develop? Were they the result of wear and tear or traumatic injury? In order to offer an opinion, we’d need alot more information and to take a look. Our Virginia Regenexx provider is Alternatively, if you have recent MRI’s, you can upload your MRI’s by submitting the “Are You a Candidate” form and a phone call with one of our Physicians will be scheduled.

  3. Timothy r zarger

    Tanks 4 responding I had polio at age 2 im 58 I wear prostisis on left leg like Forrest Gump I have fallen down thousands of times in my life docs think it’s degenerative when u fall u throw your arms out to try to catch yourself over 56 years it has ruined my rotaters the right arm suffers nerve damage and deltoid atrofied to nothin no hope for right arm sure would like to get left arm workin again tanks

    1. Regenexx Team

      That’s alot of trauma for shoulders to take. There are 2 ways to see if your left shoulder would be a good Candidate for a Regenexx Procedure. You can submit the Candidate form through which you can upload your MRI and medical history and speak to one of physicians about them and your case, or set up an exam at one of our Providers local to you. Here is the Interactive List of Regenexx providers: and you’ll find the Candidate form here: It would be great to see if we could that left arm working better!

  4. Timothy r zarger

    Tanks 4 responding if u send me your address I will send prepaid ups parcel so u can send my records and Mri back to me I’m horrible with cumpters if I don’t qualify I understand schoulders in bad shape but at least u tried to help that’s more than dr Coleman at orthopedic and spine center Newport News va did.sure would like to get back in pool as I used to swim every morning at gym thanks again

    1. Regenexx Team


      Here is the list of Regenexx Providers. If a Candidate, which location would you travel to?

  5. Anthony Brown

    Tore my left rotator cuff 5 yrs ago.mri at that time showed not much of a tear but couldn’t lift my arm.after surgery was told the cuff was badly torn and i wasn’t lieng.anyway my shoulder hurts constantly now and mobility is getting in fla and surgery original ly was in ny under workman’s fever sont think infected but unsure what tp do.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Sounds like your shoulder needs to be examined. We have two Regenexx locations in Florida, one in Sarasota, and one in Miami. Please see: and and and

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