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Return to work after early repair of acute traumatic rotator cuff tears



Lost workdays following rotator cuff repair is not well-studied in the literature. We aimed to define the time away from work following early arthroscopic repair of acute traumatic rotator cuff tears and compare it with the recommendations of the American Medical Disability Advisor (MD Guidelines) and The Swedish Social Insurance Agency.


Thirty-two consecutive working patients with a median age of 58 (42–70) years suffering from acute traumatic rotator cuff tears who underwent arthroscopic repair were prospectively studied. The studied variables were age, gender, alcohol use, smoking, number of injured tendons, dominant side involvement, work-related injury, employment status, preoperative work level, alterations of work tasks at return to work, and time away from work.


97% of the patients returned to full-duty work. The median time to return to full-duty work was 5.0 (1.1–10.5) months. Preoperative work level (p = 0.025) and dominant side (p = 0.02) significantly affected the time away from work on the univariate analysis, while GLM model showed a trend (p = 0.09) for shorter sick leave by dominant side involvement. The sick leave was longer in all three work level categories compared with the MD Guidelines and longer in the light and medium work categories compared with the recommendations by FK.


According to the present study, acute traumatic rotator cuff tears cause a considerable loss of work days. However, almost all patients are expected to return to work after a median time of 5 months following arthroscopic repair. Current guidelines and recommendations regarding sick leave following repair of rotator cuff tears might have to be reviewed.

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Acute shoulder assessment project


Canadian classification and dictionary of occupations




General linear model


Medical disability


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The authors thank the ASAP collaborators PT Anna Lönnberg, PT Madelaine Andersson for their help in monitoring the study and Dr. Torsten Boegård for radiological advice.


The study was supported by grants from the Stig and Ragna Gorthons Research Foundation.

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Authors and Affiliations



KEA assisted in the design of the study, reviewed the literature, collected data, and wrote the manuscript. PR collected data and assisted in data analyses. FA contributed to the statistical analysis and critically revised the manuscript. KL initiated and designed the study and reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the paper in its final version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fikri M. Abu-Zidan.

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Conflict of interest

Knut E Aagaard, Patrik Randeblad, Fikri Abu-Zidan and Karl Lunsjö declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

This study was approved by the Regional Ethical Review Board in Lund, registration number 2011/119.

Informed consent

All patients signed a consent form giving permission to use their anonymous data for research.



See Table 5.

Table 5 Definitions of work level by the Canadian Classification and Dictionary of Occupations (CCDO)

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Aagaard, K.E., Randeblad, P., Abu-Zidan, F.M. et al. Return to work after early repair of acute traumatic rotator cuff tears. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg 46, 817–823 (2020).

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  • Acute rotator cuff tear
  • Shoulder trauma
  • Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair
  • Time away from work
  • Sick leave
  • Return to work
  • Disability duration