Rotator cuff-tear arthropathy has traditionally represented a challenge to the shoulder arthroplasty surgeon. The poor results of conventional total shoulder arthroplasty in rotator-cuff-deficient shoulders due to glenoid component loosening have led to hemiarthroplasty being the traditional preferred surgical option. Recently, reverse total shoulder arthroplasty has gained increasing popularity because of a clinical perception of an improved functional outcome, despite the lack of comparative data. The aim of this study was to compare the early functional results of hemiarthroplasty with those of reverse shoulder arthroplasty in the management of cuff-tear arthropathy.

The results of 102 primary hemiarthroplasties for rotator cuff-tear arthropathy were compared with those of 102 reverse shoulder arthroplasties performed for the same diagnosis. Patients were identified from the New Zealand Joint Registry and matched for age, sex, and American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) scores. Oxford Shoulder Scores (OSS) collected at six months postoperatively as well as mortality and revision rates were compared between the two groups.

There were fifty-one men and fifty-one women in each group, with a mean age of 71.6 years in the hemiarthroplasty group and 72.6 years in the reverse shoulder arthroplasty group. The mean OSS at six months was 31.1 in the hemiarthroplasty group and 37.5 in the reverse shoulder arthroplasty group. At the time of follow-up, there were nine revisions in the hemiarthroplasty group and five in the reverse shoulder arthroplasty group. No difference in mortality rate was seen between the two groups.

In this unselected population with rotator cuff-tear arthropathy, controlled for age, sex, and ASA score, reverse shoulder arthroplasty resulted in a functional outcome that was superior to that of hemiarthroplasty. Longer-term follow-up is needed to confirm these findings.

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