Symptomatic, partial-thickness rotator cuff tears (sPTRCT) are problematic. This study tested the hypothesis that management of sPTRCT with injection of fresh, uncultured, unmodified, autologous, adipose-derived regenerative cells (UA-ADRCs) is safe and more effective than injection of corticosteroid even in the long run. To this end, subjects who had completed a former randomized controlled trial were enrolled in the present study. At baseline these subjects had not responded to physical therapy treatments for at least 6 weeks, and were randomly assigned to receive respectively a single injection of UA-ADRCs (n = 11) or a single injection of methylprednisolone (n = 5). Efficacy was assessed using the ASES Total score, pain visual analogue scale (VAS), RAND Short Form-36 Health Survey and range of motion at 33.2 ± 1.0 (mean ± SD) and 40.6 ± 1.9 months post-treatment. Proton density, fat-saturated, T2-weighted MRI of the index shoulder was performed at both study visits. There were no greater risks connected with injection of UA-ADRCs than those connected with injection of corticosteroid. The subjects in the UA-ADRCs group showed statistically significantly higher mean ASES Total scores than the subjects in the corticosteroid group. The MRI scans at 6 months post-treatment allowed to “watch the UA-ADRCs at work”.

Scientific Reports(Sci Rep) | ISSN 2045-2322 (Online)