Arthroscopic balloon spacer arthroplasty (BSA) is a relatively recent procedure for patients with irreparable rotator cuff tears, conceived to prevent degenerative joint changes and relieve subacromial pain.

This is a retrospective case series of 16 consecutive patients treated with BSA and followed up for a minimum 12 months. Besides BSA, partial tendon repair was done whenever possible. Radiographical parameters such as acromiohumeral distance and Hamada stage were measured preoperatively and postoperatively. Range of motion, functional results (Constant score; Simple Shoulder Test; American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score; and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand score), health-related quality of life results with the EuroQol Five Dimensions tool, complications, and patient satisfaction were also analyzed.

The mean age was 64 ± 10.3 years, and the male/female ratio was 6/10. Partial repair was achieved in five patients (31.2%) and did not influence functional or health-related quality of life results (P = 0.11). The mean acromiohumeral distance and Hamada stage worsened from preoperative measures (3.7 ± 2.0 mm and 2.3 ± 1.1) to final follow-up measures (3.1 ± 2.4 mm and 3.1 ± 1.3). Shoulder abduction increased by 7.8° ± 26.8° and forward flexion decreased by 25.5° ± 32.4° after surgery. The functional results at the final follow-up were Constant 49.5 ± 18.0; American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons 60.2 ± 27.2; Simple Shoulder Test 8.5 ± 4.6; and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand 32.7 ± 12.1. The mean index value for the EuroQol Five Dimensions was 0.79, and perceived quality of life was 85.6 ± 15.4 of 100 points. 62.5% of the patients (10) were satisfied with surgery. The complication rate was 13% (2), accounting for one deep infection and one balloon migration.

Theoretical benefits of BSA for delaying superior humeral head translation and arthropathic changes could not be demonstrated in our series. Its functional results and satisfaction rates are low, but self-reported quality of life after surgery does not seem impaired. Complications do not occur frequently but require reintervention and endanger joint viability.

Level IV (case series).

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