There is an ongoing debate on the treatment of bursal-sided partial-thickness rotator cuff tears (PTRCTs), including ideal repair techniques. Augmentation using a collagen patch has been introduced as a new surgical approach to treat PTRCTs, while the effect of autogenous biceps augmentation (BA) has not been investigated.

To analyze the effects of BA on bursal-sided PTRCTs and compare its histological and biomechanical results with those of tear completion followed by repair and in situ repair (ISR).

Controlled laboratory study.

Unilateral chronic PTRCTs were created in 96 mature New Zealand White rabbits, which were randomly divided into 4 groups: no repair, tear completion repair (TCR), ISR, and BA. A new bicipital groove was fabricated in BA for the biceps tendon that was transferred to augment the bursal-sided PTRCT repair. In each group, we sacrificed 6 rabbits for biomechanical testing of the whole tendon-to-bone complex (WTBC) and 6 for histological evaluation of bursal- and articular-sided layers at 6 and 12 weeks postoperatively. Healing responses between the biceps and new bicipital groove in the BA group were determined using histological analysis, and final groove morphologies were evaluated using micro-computed tomography.

The remaining tendon and enthesis in bursal-sided PTRCTs progressively degenerated over time. WTBCs of ISR exhibited a larger failure load than those of TCR, although better healing properties in the bursal-sided repaired site were achieved using TCR based on histological scores and superior articular-sided histological scores were observed using ISR. However, WTBCs of BA displayed the best biomechanical results and superior histological scores for bursal- and articular-sided regions. The new bicipital groove in BA remodeled over time and formed similar morphologies to a native groove, which provided a mature bone bed for transferred biceps tendon healing to augment bursal-sided PTRCTs.

BA achieved better biomechanical and histological results for repairing bursal-sided PTRCTs as compared with TCR and ISR. When compared with that of TCR, the WTBC of ISR exhibited a higher failure load, showing histological superiority in the articular-sided repair and inferiority in the bursal-sided repair.

BA may be an approach to improve bursal-sided PTRCT repair in humans, which warrants further clinical investigation.