Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: October 2015 - Volume 473 - Issue 10 - p 3212–3217 doi: 10.1007/s11999-015-4433-4 Clinical Research

Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major Transfer With Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty Restores Active Motion and Reduces Pain for Posterosuperior Cuff Dysfunction

Shi, Lewis, L., MD1; Cahill, Kirk, E., BA1; Ek, Eugene, T., MBBS, PhD2; Tompson, Jeffrey, D., MS3; Higgins, Laurence, D., MD4; Warner, Jon, J. P., MD3,a

Background In patients with rotator cuff dysfunction, reverse shoulder arthroplasty can restore active forward flexion, but it does not provide a solution for the lack of active external rotation because of infraspinatus and the teres minor dysfunction. A modified L’Episcopo procedure can be performed in the same setting wherein the latissimus dorsi and teres major tendons are transferred to the lateral aspect of proximal humerus in an attempt to restore active external rotation.


Questions/purposes (1) Do latissimus dorsi and teres major tendon transfers with reverse shoulder arthroplasty improve external rotation function in patients with posterosuperior rotator cuff dysfunction? (2) Do patients experience less pain and have improved outcome scores after surgery? (3) What are the complications associated with reverse shoulder arthroplasty with latissimus dorsi and teres major transfer?


Methods Between 2007 and 2010, we treated all patients undergoing shoulder arthroplasty who had a profound external rotation lag sign and advanced fatty degeneration of the posterosuperior rotator cuff (infraspinatus plus teres minor) with this approach. A total of 21 patients (mean age 66 years; range, 58-82 years) were treated this way and followed for a minimum of 2 years (range, 26-81 months); none was lost to followup, and all have been seen in the last 5 years. We compared pre- and postoperative ranges of motion, pain, and functional status; scores were drawn from chart review. We also categorized major and minor complications.


Results Active forward flexion improved from 56° ± 36° to 120° ± 38° (mean difference: 64° [95% confidence interval {CI}, 45°-83°], p < 0.001). Active external rotation with the arm adducted improved from 6° ± 16° to 38° ± 14° (mean difference: 30° [95% CI, 21°-39°], p < 0.001); active external rotation with the arm abducted improved from 19° ± 25° to 74° ± 22° (mean difference: 44° [95% CI, 22°-65°], p < 0.001). Pain visual analog score improved from 8.4 ± 2.3 to 1.7 ± 2.1 (mean difference: −6.9 [95% CI, −8.7 to −5.2], p < 0.001), and Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation score improved from 28% ± 21% to 80% ± 24% (mean difference: 46% [95% CI, 28%-64%], p < 0.001). There were six major complications, five of which were treated operatively. Overall, three patients’ latissimus and teres major transfer failed based on persistent lack of external rotation.


Conclusions In patients with posterior and superior cuff deficiency, reverse shoulder arthroplasty combined with latissimus dorsi and teres major transfer through a single deltopectoral incision can reliably increase active forward flexion and external rotation. Patients experience pain relief and functional improvement but have a high rate of complications; therefore, we recommend the procedure be limited to patients indicated for reverse who have profound external rotation loss and a high grade of infraspinatus/teres minor fatty atrophy.


Level of Evidence Level IV, therapeutic study.

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