Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Arthroscopic surgery compared with supervised exercises in patients with rotator cuff disease (stage II impingement syndrome)

British Medical Journal 1993; 307 doi: (Published 09 October 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;307:899
  1. J I Brox,
  2. P H Staff,
  3. A E Ljunggren,
  4. J I Brevik
  1. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


    OBJECTIVE--To compare the effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery, a supervised exercise regimen, and placebo soft laser treatment in patients with rotator cuff disease (stage II impingement syndrome). DESIGN--Randomised clinical trial. SETTING--Hospital departments of orthopaedics and of physical medicine and rehabilitation. PATIENTS--125 patients aged 18-66 who had had rotator cuff disease for at least three months and whose condition was resistant to treatment. INTERVENTIONS--Arthroscopic subacromial decompression performed by two experienced surgeons; exercise regimen over three to six months supervised by one experienced physiotherapist; or 12 sessions of detuned soft laser treatment over six weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Change in the overall Neer shoulder score (pain during previous week and blinded evaluation of function and range of movement by one clinician) after six months. RESULTS--No differences were found between the three groups in duration of sick leave and daily intake of analgesics. After six months the difference in improvement in overall Neer score between surgery and supervised exercises was 4.0 (95% confidence interval -2 to 11) and 2.0 (-1.4 to 5.4) after adjustment for sex. The condition improved significantly compared with placebo in both groups given the active treatments. Treatment costs were higher for those given surgery (720 pounds v 390 pounds). CONCLUSIONS--Surgery or a supervised exercise regimen significantly, and equally, improved rotator cuff disease compared with placebo.