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Rotator cuff tendon tears affect more than four million people annually in the U.S. and are the most common source of shoulder pain and disability. Dr. Patrick Connor of the OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Center, team physician to the Carolina Panthers, is pioneering the use of a breakthrough technology designed as a new option for millions of people suffering from rotator cuff tendon tears in the shoulder joint. This new, minimally invasive solution, the Rotation Medical Bioinductive Implant, goes beyond traditional surgery to help the tendon heal through the induction of new tendinous tissue growth.
Q: What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is made of a group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint and keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff tendons provide stability to your shoulder; the muscles allow your shoulder to rotate.
Q: What is a rotator cuff tear?
There are two types of rotator cuff tears: a partial tear, in which the soft tissue is damaged, but not completely severed; and a full-thickness tear, in which the soft tissue is split into two pieces. When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons have suffered a tear, it will no longer completely attach to the head of your upper arm – causing daily activities, like getting dressed, sleeping or brushing your teeth, to become painful and difficult to do.
Q: What causes a rotator cuff injury?
Rotator cuff injuries are caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, trauma, age or activity-related injury. The most common cause is degeneration of the tendon; as you age, your rotator cuff tendons wear out like a well-worn pair of jeans and become thinner and more susceptible to tearing. Rotator cuff injuries can also occur in people who repeatedly perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports. The risk of injury increases with age; more than 50 percent of people over age 60 have symptoms.
Q: How can I tell if my rotator cuff is injured?
With a rotator cuff injury, you will typically feel pain in the front of your shoulder that radiates down the side of your arm. You may also feel pain when lifting your arms overhead, or when you try to sleep on the affected side. If the tear occurs with injury, you may experience acute pain, a snapping sensation and immediate weakness of the arm.
Q: How are rotator cuff injuries diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of a rotator cuff tear, an orthopedic surgeon will likely order an MRI or ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis.
Q: What is the latest treatment option for rotator cuff injuries?
Traditional approaches to treating rotator cuff injuries focus only on mechanical repair but do not address the underlying biology of the tendon. At OrthoCarolina we are offering a new technology that helps tendons heal through the induction of new tendinous tissue growth, which has been shown to enable healing of partial-thickness rotator cuff tears. The Rotation Medical Bioinductive Implant, which is about the size of a postage stamp, is inserted through a small incision during a short, minimally invasive procedure. Surgical staples hold the implant in place until new tissue grows into the implant and remodels into tendon-like tissue. The implant gradually absorbs within about six months, leaving a layer of new tissue to biologically augment the existing tendon.
Depending on the stage of their rotator cuff disease, the Bioinductive Implant can provide a range of potential benefits for patients, including shorter rehabilitation, faster recovery, prevention or slowing of disease progression, healing of partial-thickness tears, and decreased risk of developing a subsequent degenerative tear.
See how the Rotation Medical Bioinductive Implant works
Dr. Patrick Connor is a sports medicine physician with OrthoCarolina and the team physician to the Carolina Panthers.