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Running person icon to the left of the image and to the right is the blog title: What is Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair?

What is Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair?

Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain, affecting more than 2 million Americans each year. If you have a partially torn rotator cuff that hasn’t responded to non-surgical treatment like physical therapy and cortisone injections, you may be a candidate for a procedure called Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair, performed by our shoulder specialist Dr. Noerdlinger.

What is the rotator cuff?
Shoulders are not singular joints, but rather a complex arrangement of bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles, connected by tendons, that originate from the shoulder blade (scapula) and attach to the upper arm bone (humerus) to form a cover, or “cuff.” The rotator cuff provides stability to the shoulder joint and helps the arm lift and rotate. 

What causes a rotator cuff tear?
A rotator cuff tear happens when the tendons pull away from the bone. With a partial tear, the tendon remains attached to the bone and with a full tear it separates from the bone completely. Tears most commonly happen as a result of normal wear and tear due to aging, with people over 40 at greatest risk. A tear can also be caused by an acute injury like a fall, from repetitive shoulder movement from jobs like carpentry or painting, or from sports like tennis or rowing. Untreated, a rotator cuff tear can worsen over time and may lead to chronic shoulder pain and limited range of motion.

How do I know if I have a rotator cuff tear?
The most common symptom of a rotator cuff tear is pain. A tear can also cause weakness in the arm and shoulder, difficulty raising your arm or lifting something, and a clicking or popping sensation in the shoulder. You may also experience swelling or tenderness in the shoulder joint. If you think you have a rotator cuff tear, a doctor will need to perform a physical exam and may confirm your diagnosis with an x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound.

What is Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair?
Collagen augmented rotator cuff repair is a surgical technique that uses a collagen implant to reinforce the rotator cuff repair. The implant is made of a biologically derived material similar to the collagen found in human tissue. It’s designed to provide additional strength and support to the healing tendon, reducing the risk of re-tear. The postage-size collagen patches are absorbed by the body within about 6 months, and patients generally experience shorter recovery times than with conventional rotator cuff surgery.

We recently sat down with shoulder specialist Dr. Noerdlinger and asked him a few questions about this procedure. 

Q: How does this procedure benefit your patients?
A: Collagen implants can lead to quicker recoveries. Adding collagen facilitates the biologic healing of torn tendons in certain situations. They are used in two situations:

  • To repair a partially torn rotator cuff tendon. In this scenario, the collagen is laid on top of the partially torn tendon. The implant blends in with the thinned rotator cuff tendon, thickens it and allows it to heal. Patients, with partial tears, do not need to wear a sling after surgery.
  • To augment a repaired shredded tendon that may not heal on its own, particularly in the setting of a revision rotator cuff tear when the tendon did not heal after the first surgery. 

Q: Who is a good candidate for the Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair Procedure?
A: Not everyone is a candidate for this procedure. Patients with irreparable rotator tears would not qualify for this procedure. Also, patients with good tissue may not need to augment their repairs. 

Q: Where do you perform the Collagen Augmented Rotator Cuff Repair procedure?
A: The procedure requires anesthesia and is performed arthroscopically at NECOS and York Hospital.

Q: Can you tell us about a success story? 
A: I recently saw a 56 year old female with worsening constant shoulder pain since April 2022. I performed a Partial Rotator Cuff Repair with collagen implant in January of 2023. She was seen in early March of 2023 and reported to be doing well with minimal complaints of pain. 

NOTE: Shoulder surgery has a long recovery and often people take 4-6 months before they feel great. Having an expert shoulder surgeon like Dr. Noerdlinger may help speed up recovery. 

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