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We have undertaken an in vivo assessment of the tissue metabolism and cellular activity in torn tendons of the rotator cuff. Cellular oxygen consumption was measured in 13 patients undergoing mini-open repair of small, medium, large and massive full-thickness tears. Measurements were also taken from three control patients who were undergoing open stabilisation of the shoulder with grossly normal tendons. The level of oxygen and nitrous oxide was measured amperometrically using silver needle microelectrodes at the apex of the tear and 1.5 cm from its edge. With nitrous oxide indicating the degree of perfusion, oxygen consumption was calculated at each location to reflect cellular activity. All of the torn tendons had lower levels of cellular activity than the control group. This activity was lower still in the tissue nearest to the edge of the tear with the larger tears showing the lowest activity. This indicated reduced levels of tissue metabolism and infers a reduction in tendon viability. Our findings suggest that surgical repair of torn tendons of the rotator-cuff should include the more proximal, viable tissue, and may help to explain the high rate of re-rupture seen in larger tears.

Original publication




Journal article


J bone joint surg br

Publication Date





633 - 638


Adult, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nitrous Oxide, Oxygen Consumption, Rotator Cuff, Rotator Cuff Injuries, Tendon Injuries