Short-Term Benefit from Electrical Stimulation after Rotator Cuff Repair

Ask anyone who has had rotator cuff surgery, and they’ll tell you how painful the first three postop months can be. Electrical stimulation might make that time period easier for patients.

A recent randomized controlled trial in Orthopedics found that 32 patients who received pulsed electromagnetic stimulation (applied at home through a battery-operated device) six to eight hours daily for six weeks after arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery had lower VAS pain scores and better Constant-Murley scores three months after surgery, when compared to a placebo group of 34 patients who used identical devices with the batteries removed. Additionally, patients in the active-treatment group returned to work and daily activities after an average of 3.4 months after surgery, compared to an average of 5.3 months for those in the control group.

All participants had similar small-to-medium rotator cuff tears, received the same surgical single-row repair, and underwent virtually identical rehab protocols. Clinical and functional outcomes had continued to improve for all patients at the two-year follow-up, but by then the between-group differences seen at three months had disappeared. The authors did not conduct an economic analysis of the use of the electromagnetic treatment.

Although this study shows that benefits from electromagnetic stimulation are short-lived, they occur at a postsurgical point in time that is clinically difficult for many rotator cuff patients.

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