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The Use of Regional Flaps for the Repair of Synovio-Cutaneous Fistulas of the Shoulder after Attempted Rotator Cuff Repair: A Report of Two Cases

Context: The treatment of rotator cuff tears has become one of the most common orthopaedic sports procedures. The development of a synovio-cutaneous fistula is a rare, but serious, complication that has been described after rotator cuff repair. The purpose of this report is to present the local rotational flap as a treatment option for synovio-cutaneous fistulas of the shoulder and to emphasize the importance of recognizing when primary closure may not be sufficient for adequate repair.

Case Reports: A 67-year-old male who previously underwent a right rotator cuff and a biceps tendon repair presented with a persistently draining shoulder fistula. The decision was made to proceed with extensive debridement and closure using vascularized tissue. A 63-year-old male presented for a postoperative wound complication following attempted open debridement of a left torn rotator cuff. The wound was initially managed conservatively, but a persistently draining fistula necessitated the use of vascularized tissue for closure of the wound. The recovery of both patients was uneventful with no recurrent fistula formation. Both patients had improved shoulder range of motion following surgery and resolution of their pain.

Conclusions: The excessive tension placed on the rotator cuff tendons and deltoid during repair and the resultant inflammation may contribute to tissue necrosis and facial dehiscence over the glen humeral joint, allowing for fistula formation. Surgeons should be aware that when adequate soft tissue coverage cannot be accomplished over the glen humeral joint via primary closure, there are local flaps available to provide complete coverage over the joint.


Shammas RL1, Buretta KJ2, Grimm NL3, Poveromo LP1 and Suhail Mithani

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