Background: The relationship between the degree of vascularization at the edge of a torn rotator cuff tendon and cuff healing remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to employ indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence angiography to evaluate the blood flow at the edge of a torn rotator cuff tendon under the subacromial view.

Methods: Thirteen shoulders of 13 patients who underwent arthroscopic repair of full-thickness rotator cuff tears were included in this prospective study. Viewing from the posterolateral portal, ICG at 0.2 mg/kg body weight was intravenously administered, and the blood flow was recorded. After resecting the poorly vascularized torn edge of the tendon, ICG administration was repeated at the same volume. The fluorescence intensity and perfusion time of the tendon blood flow were evaluated using video analysis and modeling tools. Cuff integrity was evaluated using magnetic resonance imaging at 6 months postoperatively. Patients were divided into healed and retear groups, and the differences in the degree of blood flow were evaluated.

Results: ICG fluorescence angiography could visualize the blood flow in the rotator cuff tendon, and the torn edge of the tendon with poor blood flow was resected. The overall retear rate was 23.1 % (3/13). Based on quantitative analysis, the fluorescence intensity factors were significantly lower in the retear group than in the healed group before tendon débridement. The retear rate in the high blood flow group was 0% (0/7), while that in the low blood flow group was 50.0% (3/6).

Conclusions: ICG fluorescence angiography may play a role in the future of shoulder arthroscopy. Further study is needed to determine the effect of blood flow on tendon healing.

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