Diagnosis and Management of Partial Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears

A Comprehensive Review

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MPH; Jaya Shanmugam, MD; Karen Briggs, MPH; Stephanie C. Petterson, MPT, PhD


J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2021;29(24):1031-1043. 

In This Article


PRCTs continue to be a challenging disease entity. There is good evidence to support a trial of conservative management as the first line of treatment of most patients with PRCTs. When conservative measures fail, factors including patient age, activity level, tear location, and tear size can help guide surgical decision making. Arthroscopic débridement with or without acromioplasty is a reasonable option to treat articular-sided tears that involve <50% of tendon thickness, although the effectiveness in bursal-sided tears remains questionable. Tears that involve >50% thickness should be repaired with conversion repair or in situ repair techniques, which have been shown to be equally effective in the literature. The use of biologic adjuncts in treating PRCTs warrants continued investigation and hopefully will show promise to increase healing rates.