Study: Rotator Cuff Surgery Helpful to Injured Wheelchair Users

A small study by researchers in South Korea found that rotator cuff surgery for injured wheelchair users with paraplegia resulted in functional improvements, even if the patients sustained new injuries later on.

The study was conducted by researchers in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Asan Medical Center, School of Medicine, University of Ulsan in Seoul, and results were published in late 2014.

The retrospective study examined rotator cuff surgery results in 13 patients with paraplegia. The study abstract reported that the average age of patients at the time of their surgeries was 48.7 years.

Paraplegia was caused by polio in nine of the patients, while four had spinal cord injuries and two had cerebral infarction. Two of the patients underwent arthroscopic repair; the other 11 patients had open rotator cuff surgery.

After surgery, the patients refrained from self propelling their wheelchairs for six months to give their shoulders time to heal.

Korean researchers used the American Shoulder & Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score to evaluate patient function after surgery.

They reported that patients’ ASES scores improved from 53 to 85. Patient examinations showed that 88 percent of the injuries had healed, but the other 12 percent had experienced rotator cuff retearing.

Even those patients who suffered new injuries showed higher functional scores, however.

Researchers concluded, “Rotator cuff repair surgery for paraplegic wheelchair-bound patients provides satisfactory functional outcomes. Careful postoperative management can help in obtaining positive functional outcomes.”

The study’s results were published in the Journal of Shoulder & Elbow Surgery, April 2015.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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