There is ongoing controversy regarding optimal treatment for full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Given that the evidence surrounding the use of various treatment options has expanded, an overall assessment is required.

The following were compared to determine which resulted in improved patient-reported function, pain, and reoperation rates for each: (1) double-row (DR) fixation and single-row (SR) fixation in arthroscopic cuff repair; (2) latissimus dorsi transfer (LDT) with lower trapezius transfer (LTT), partial rotator cuff repair, and superior capsular reconstruction (SCR); and (3) early and late surgical intervention.

Medline, Embase, and Cochrane were searched through to April 20, 2021. Additional studies were identified from reviews. The following were included: (1) All English-language randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in patients ≥18 years of age comparing SR and DR fixation, (2) observational studies comparing LDT with LTT, partial repair, and SCR, and (3) observational studies comparing early vs. late treatment of full-thickness rotator cuff tears.

A total of 15 RCTs (n = 1096 randomized patients) were included in the meta-analysis of SR vs. DR fixation. No significant standardized mean differences in function (0.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.09, 0.24) or pain (-0.01, 95% CI -0.52, 0.49) were observed. There was a difference in retear rates in favor of DR compared with SR fixation (RR 1.56, 95% CI 1.06, 2.29). Four studies were included in the systematic review of LDT compared with a surgical control. LDT and partial repair did not reveal any differences in function (-1.12, 95% CI -4.02, 1.78) on comparison. A single study compared arthroscopically assisted LDT to LTT and observed a nonstatistical difference in the Constant score of 14.7 (95% CI -4.06, 33.46). A single RCT compared LDT with SCR and revealed a trend toward superiority for the Constant score with SCR with a mean difference of -9.6 (95% CI -19.82, 0.62). Comparison of early vs. late treatment revealed a paucity of comparative studies with varying definitions of "early" and "late" treatment, which made meaningful interpretation of the results difficult.

DR fixation leads to similar improvement in function and pain compared with SR fixation and results in a higher healing rate. LDT transfer yields results similar to those from partial repair, LTT, and SCR in functional outcomes. Further study is required to determine the optimal timing of treatment and to increase confidence in these findings. Future trials of high methodologic quality comparing LDT with LTT and SCR are required.

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