Rotator cuff tears are very common, and 250,000 to 500,000 rotator cuff repairs are performed in the United States each year.1,2 In most cases, a complete repair of even large or massive tears can be achieved. However, a subset of patients exist in whom the glenohumeral joint has minimal degenerative changes and the rotator cuff tendon is either irreparable or very poor quality and unlikely to heal (ie, failed previous cuff repair). Some authors have advocated for reverse shoulder arthroplasty (RSA) in these patients despite the lack of glenohumeral arthritis. However, due to the permanent destruction of the glenohumeral articular surfaces, complication rates, and concerns about implant longevity with RSA, we believe the superior capsular reconstruction (SCR) is a viable alternative in patients in whom joint preservation is appropriate based on age limitations and/or activity requirements.3
The SCR was first described by Mihata and colleagues4 as a means to reconstruct the superior capsule in shoulders with large, irreparable posterosuperior rotator cuff tears. Originally described using a fascia lata autograft, our technique has been adapted to incorporate a dermal allograft, which limits donor site morbidity and operative time. In most cases, the dermal allograft is fixed to the normal anatomic attachments of the superior glenoid just medial to the superior labrum, laterally to the greater tuberosity, and posteriorly with side-to-side sutures to the remaining rotator cuff. If there is a robust band of “comma” tissue anteriorly, we fix the anterior margin of the dermal graft to this with side-to-side sutures. The comma tissue represents the medial sling of the biceps tendon and connects the upper subscapularis tendon to the anterior supraspinatus. In most cases, this tissue is intact after repair of the subscapularis tendon.
The patient is positioned in either the lateral decubitus or beach chair position. The arm is positioned in 20° to 30° of abduction and 20° to 30° of forward flexion. A diagnostic arthroscopy is performed through a posterior glenohumeral viewing portal. The subscapularis is visualized and repaired if torn. A biceps tenodesis is performed in most cases, as there is often a tear of the subscapularis, tear or instability of the biceps tendon, and/or a compromised attachment of the biceps root.
Attention is turned to the subacromial space. Posterior viewing and lateral working portals are established. A 10-mm flexible cannula (PassPort; Arthrex) is placed in the lateral portal to aid with suture management and graft passage. A limited subacromial decompression is performed that preserves the coracoacromial arch. The rotator cuff is carefully dissected and freed from the internal deltoid fascia. The scapular spine is identified to visualize the raphé between the supraspinatus and infraspinatus. The infraspinatus is mobilized and repaired as much as possible.
If we think that the tear might be reparable by gaining added excursion from a posterior interval slide, or if it is clearly not reparable but the remaining rim of rotator cuff obscures clear visualization of the superior glenoid, we perform a posterior interval slide. If the additional excursion that is achieved by the posterior slide is adequate for a complete repair, we proceed with the repair. However, if the tear is not reparable even after the posterior interval slide, we have found that the exposure and preparation of the superior glenoid is greatly improved after the posterior slide. After fixation of the dermal graft, we typically perform a partial side-to-side repair of the supraspinatus to the infraspinatus over the top of the graft.
The bone beds of the greater tuberosity and just medial to the superior glenoid labrum are prepared with a shaver and motorized burr. Two anchors (3.0-mm BioComposite SutureTak; Arthrex) are placed in the superior glenoid neck at about the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions approximately 5 mm medial to the superior labrum. Note: the placement medial to the labrum is chosen because this is the normal origin of the superior capsule and because of the angle of approach, these percutaneous portals are often more medial than typical portals for placing anchors during SLAP (superior labral anterior to posterior) repair. Next, 2 threaded anchors (4.75-mm BioComposite SwiveLock; Arthrex) preloaded with suture tape are placed in the greater tuberosity along the articular margin (Figure 1). However, if a biceps tenodesis with an interference screw is placed at the top of the bicipital groove, this anchor preloaded with suture tape can also serve as the anteromedial anchor in the greater tuberosity footprint. The distances between all 4 anchors are carefully measured with a calibrated probe (Figures 2A-2D).