Which Risk Factors Are Associated with Pain and Patient-reported Function in Patients with a Rotator Cuff Tear?

Nicole G. Lemaster, Carolyn M. Hettrich, Cale A. Jacobs, Nick Heebner, Philip M. Westgate, Scott Mair, Justin R. Montgomery, Tim L. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Patient-reported measures guide physicians in clinical decision making and therefore it is critical to determine what clinical factors are associated with these scores. Psychological and physical factors are commonly studied separately in patients with rotator cuff tears to determine their influence on outcomes. It is well established that psychological distress and scapular motion change in the presence of a symptomatic rotator cuff tear. However, these factors have not been studied simultaneously in a clinical setting to determine their association with shoulder outcome scores. QUESTION/PURPOSE: After controlling for relevant confounding variables, what physical and psychological factors are associated with better (1) American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) scores for function, (2) ASES pain scores, and (3) total ASES scores? METHODS: Fifty-nine patients with a potential symptomatic rotator cuff tear were recruited and agreed to participate in this cross-sectional study. Of those, 85% (50 of 59) met eligibility criteria for a primary diagnosis of an MRI-confirmed symptomatic partial-thickness or full-thickness rotator cuff tear without a history of shoulder surgery. Demographics, rotator cuff tear size, arm flexion, and clinical scapular motion during active arm flexion were evaluated by experienced examiners using standardized procedures. Patients completed the ASES questionnaire and the Optimal Screening for Prediction of Referral and Outcomes-Yellow Flag assessment form, which measures 11 different pain-related psychological distress symptoms. Three separate stepwise multiple linear regression analyses were performed for ASES pain, function, and total scores, with significance set at p < 0.05. RESULTS: This model found that ASES function scores were associated with four factors: older age, increased arm flexion, increased percentage of scapular external rotation during arm flexion, and increased scores for acceptance of chronic pain (adjusted r2 = 0.67; p = 0.01). Those four factors appear to explain 67% of the observed variance in ASES function scores in patients with rotator cuff tears. Furthermore, increased percentage of scapular external rotation during arm flexion and decreased fear-avoidance beliefs related to physical activity scores (adjusted r2 = 0.36; p < 0.01) were associated with better ASES pain scores. And finally, better ASES total scores were associated with four factors: increased arm flexion, increased percentage of scapular upward rotation, increased scapular external rotation during arm flexion, and decreased fear-avoidance beliefs related to physical activity scores (adjusted r2 = 0.65; p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Our results favor adopting a comprehensive biopsychological clinical assessment for patients with rotator cuff tears that specifically includes humeral and scapular motion, fear-avoidance behaviors, and pain coping behaviors along with demographics. These particular physical and psychological variables were found to be associated with the ASES and, therefore, should be clinically examined simultaneously and targeted as part of a tailored treatment plan. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level II, prognostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1982-1992
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Volume479
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 by the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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