This post comes from Fred Nelson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State Medical School. Some of Dr. Nelson’s tips go out weekly to more than 3,000 members of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and all are distributed to more than 30 orthopaedic residency programs. Those not sent to the ORS are periodically reposted in OrthoBuzz with the permission of Dr. Nelson.
Symptoms from gluteus medius tendon tears are common in people older than 50 years, but they are hard to distinguish from referred pain due to lumbar spine conditions or hip disorders such as osteoarthritis and femoroacetabular impingement. Because conservative measures are often effective, surgical remedies are not commonly discussed in the literature.
An anatomical study of the gluteus medius tendon found that the posterior part of the tendon has a fan-like shape and converges onto the superoposterior facet of the greater trochanter. The anterolateral part runs posteroinferiorly toward the lateral facet of the greater trochanter. Both the posterior and anterolateral parts insert via fibrocartilage. Given the nonuniform structure of this tendon, the thin anterolateral part may be more prone to tears than the thick posterior part.
In another recent study, a single surgeon described his experience with 185 consecutive gluteus medius tendon tear repairs.1 Tendon changes were confirmed preoperatively on MRI. Roughening of all appropriate surfaces preceded multiple-suture repair through bone holes, with sutures in line with the tendon segment being attached. Of the 185 patients, 165 completed 5- to 10-year phone follow-ups. The average age was 69 and 92% were female. There was no histological evidence of bursitis in any case. Only 9 patients reported worse Oxford Hip Scores at the 5-year follow-up; deep vein thrombotic events occurred in 4% of patients despite prophylaxis. Other common gluteus medius tendon repair techniques include utilization of suture anchors through a mini-open2 or arthroscopic approach.
Unlike degenerative rotator cuff tears of the shoulder, both incomplete and complete acute tears of the gluteus medius respond well to repair surgery. More advanced degenerative gluteus medius tendon changes do not respond as well. It is not clear what the differences are in the mechanical and biochemical mechanisms of rotator cuff and gluteal tendon changes that make surgery to repair the former seemingly less successful than surgery to repair the latter. Nevertheless, these four studies show promise for surgical interventions that have a reasonable chance of being effective, with relatively low risk.
- Fox OJK, Wertheimer G, Walsh MJ. Primary Open Abductor Reconstruction: A 5 to 10-Year Study. J Arthroplasty. 2020 Apr;35(4):941-944. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2019.11.012. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31813815
- Caleb M Gulledge, Eric C Makhni. Open Gluteus Medius and Minimus Repair With Double-Row Technique and Bioinductive Implant Augmentation. Arthrosc Tech 2019 May 17;8(6):e585-e589. doi: 10.1016/j.eats.2019.01.019. eCollection 2019 Jun. PMID: 31334014 PMCID: PMC6620622
Patients who experience persistent hip pain after nonoperative treatments for partial or full-thickness gluteus medius tears have two surgical repair options: open or endoscopic. A two-year follow up study by Chandrasekaran et al. in the August 19, 2015 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found that endoscopic repair with correction of identified intra-articular pathology yielded substantial postprocedure functional improvements and pain reduction, along with high levels of overall patient satisfaction. In addition, 15 of the 26 patients who had preoperative gait deviations were found to have a completely normal gait at the two-year follow up. No postoperative complications or re-tears were reported.
The study followed 34 patients (predominantly women, mean age of 57 years) who had endoscopic repairs. Seventeen (50%) of the patients with full-thickness or near full-thickness tears were treated with a suture bridge technique, while the 17 with partial-thickness tears received a transtendinous repair. There was no significant difference in patient-reported outcome measures between the two surgical techniques.
The ability to address intra-articular pathology is touted as an advantage of the endoscopic approach, and in this study concomitant procedures included capsule release, labral debridement and repair, and acetabuloplasty.
Although the Chandrasekaran et al. study did not compare outcomes of endoscopic versus open repair, it did track the largest reported number of endoscopy patients for the longest reported duration.