Partial rotator cuff tears can cause shoulder pain and dysfunction and are more common than complete tears. However, few studies examine partial injuries in small animals and, therefore a robust, clinically relevant model may be lacking. This study aimed to fully characterize the established rat model of partial rotator cuff injury over time and determine if it models human partial rotator cuff tears.
We created a full-thickness, partial-width injury at the supraspinatus tendon-bone interface bilaterally in 31 Sprague-Dawley rats. Rats were euthanized immediately, and at 2-, 3-, 4-, and 8-weeks after surgery. Fourteen intact shoulders were used as controls. Samples were assessed biomechanically, histologically, and morphologically.
Biomechanically, load to failure in controls and 8 weeks after injury was significantly greater than immediately and 3 weeks after injury. Load to failure at 8 weeks was comparable to control. However, the locations of failure were different between intact shoulders and partially injured samples. Bone mineral density at 8 weeks was significantly greater than that at 2 and 3 weeks. Although no animals demonstrated propagation to complete tear and the injury site remodeled histologically, the appearance at 8 weeks was not identical to that in the controls.
The biomechanical properties and bone quality decreased after the injury and was restored gradually over time with full restoration by 8 weeks after injury. However, the findings were not equivalent to the intact shoulder. This study demonstrated the limitations of the current model in its application to long-term outcome studies, and the need for better models that can be used to assess chronic partial rotator cuff injuries.
There is no small animal model that mimics human chronic partial rotator cuff tears, which limits our ability to improve care for this common condition.
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Published online: October 21, 2022
Accepted: August 17, 2022
Received: January 19, 2022
Publication stageIn Press Corrected Proof
Supported by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service (JC) and American Foundation for Surgery of the Hand (PF).
No benefits in any form have been received or will be received related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.
© 2022 by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. All rights reserved.