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Which patients with rotator cuff tears are best candidates for new subacromial spacer?

To help patients with rotator cuff injuries, Matthew Bollier, MD, FAOA, clinical associate professor in the University of Iowa Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, is conducting a non-industry-funded research study on a new technology that could reduce shoulder pain and improve function.

The InSpace subacromial spacer, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in September 2021, is a biodegradable balloon implant inserted into the shoulder above the rotator cuff and “blown up” with saline. The spacer can be used to center the humeral head in a patient whose rotator cuff cannot be fixed or to protect a massive rotator cuff repair.

Bollier, a staff physician with UI Sports Medicine and a team physician for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was the first in the state to use the spacer. He was motivated to study the spacer because it provides a promising new option for a difficult-to-treat population of patients.

“Patients with massive rotator cuff tears don’t have a lot of easy treatment options. The subacromial spacer is another option for us,” says Bollier, who serves as the Ralph and Marcia Congdon Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the UI. “It’s easy to do, the rehab is relatively quick and easy, and, in the right patient, it can make a huge difference in their shoulder pain and function.”

Bollier’s study aims to determine the best candidates for the spacer. So far, more than two dozen patients have been enrolled. Some participants had a rotator cuff repair and a spacer, while others had the spacer alone. They’ll get MRIs at six months and two years post-spacer.

“It’s a great example of new technology that’s very promising, but our job in a university practice is to study it,” Bollier says. “Our main goal here is to figure out when to use this and who to use it on.”

Thursday, June 9, 2022