At age 40, I tore my rotator cuff tendon playing tennis. I had surgery to fix it, but it tore again. Would I have been better off just leaving it alone?

There's only one study so far to look at the long-term effects of rotator cuff rerupture. Twenty patients treated at the University of Zurich in Switzerland were included. All had one or more tendon(s) repaired with an open incision.

Rerupture was shown on MRIs but not repaired a second time. At the end of three years the patients were re-examined. X-rays, MRIs, and clinical tests were done again. These same patients were followed for another three and a half years. The same tests were done again.

In two-thirds of the cases, small rotator cuff reruptures had healed. For the rest of the patients whose reruptures didn't heal, the tears weren't any worse. In all 20 patients, strength and function were better than before the first repair. Compared to patients who don't have the original tear repaired surgically, all 20 patients had better results (even with a rerupture).