The inflammatory response of the supraspinatus muscle in rotator cuff tear conditions

Lars Henrik Frich, Livia Rosa Fernandes, Henrik Daa Schrøder, Eva Kildall Hejbøl, Pernille Vinther Nielsen, Puk Hvirgel Jørgensen, Allan Stensballe, Kate Lykke Lambertsen

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Rotator cuff (RC) disorders involve a spectrum of shoulder conditions from early tendinopathy to full-thickness tears leading to impaired shoulder function and pain. The pathology of RC disorder is, nonetheless, still largely unknown. Our hypothesis is that a supraspinatus (SS) tendon tear leads to sustained inflammatory changes of the SS muscle along with fatty infiltration and muscle degeneration, which are threshold markers for poor RC muscle function. The aim of this study was to determine the extent of this muscle inflammation in conjunction with lipid accumulation and fibrosis in RC tear conditions.

Methods: We used proteomics, histology, electrochemiluminescence immunoassay, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction analyses to evaluate inflammatory and degenerative markers and fatty infiltration in biopsies from 22 patients undergoing surgery with repair of a full-thickness SS tendon tear.

Results: Bioinformatic analysis showed that proteins involved in innate immunity, extracellular matrix organization, and lipid metabolism were among the most upregulated, whereas mitochondrial electronic transport chain along with muscle fiber function was among the most downregulated. Histologic analysis confirmed changes in muscle fiber organization and the presence of inflammation and fatty infiltration. Inflammation appeared to be driven by a high number of infiltrating macrophages, accompanied by elevated matrix metalloprotease levels and changes in transforming growth factor-β and cytokine levels in the SS compared with the deltoid muscle.

Conclusions: We demonstrated massive SS muscle inflammation after the tendon tear combined with fatty infiltration and degeneration. The regulation of tissue repair is thus extremely complex, and it may have opposite effects at different time points of healing. Inhibition or stimulation of muscle inflammation may be a potential target to enhance the outcome of the repaired torn RC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e261-e275
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Shoulder disorder
  • muscle damage
  • proteomics
  • protein changes
  • extracellular matrix degeneration
  • fatty infiltration
  • Basic Science Study
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Histology


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