Surgical Repair vs. Non-Surgical Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tears: Is Surgery Worth the Cost?

By Danélia Botes

January 28, 2023

The rotator cuff, a critical component of the shoulder, plays a crucial role in stabilising the joint and facilitating arm movement. When it tears, patients face a decision: to opt for surgical repair or non-surgical treatment. This rotator cuff repair analysis presents a detailed review of both methods, shedding light on their effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

Understanding Rotator Cuff Tears

Low-to-moderate-certainty evidence suggests that surgical repair does not result in clinically relevant differences in effect compared to non-surgical treatment for degenerative rotator cuff tears. An HTA from the Norwegian institute of public health showed that choosing exclusively non-surgical treatment over surgery can provide up to NOK 81 million in annual cost savings.

Research suggests that there are no clinically relevant differences in effect between surgical and non-surgical treatment. Few serious adverse events were reported, but we are uncertain about the absolute risks. Surgery is the most expensive alternative, and choosing non-surgical treatment over surgery can provide significant cost savings.

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