Although several studies revealed a multifactorial pathogenesis of degenerative rotator cuff disorders, the impact and interaction of extrinsic variables is still poorly understood. Thus, this study aimed at uncovering the effect of patient‐ and pathology‐specific risk factors that may contribute to degeneration of the rotator cuff tendons. Between 2015 and 2018, 54 patients who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery at three specialized shoulder clinics were prospectively included. Using tendon samples harvested from the macroscopically intact subscapularis (SSC) tendon, targeted messenger RNA expression profile analysis was performed in the first cohort (n = 38). Furthermore, histological analyses were conducted on tendon tissue samples obtained from a second cohort (n = 16). Overall, both study cohorts were comparable concerning patient demographics. Results were then analyzed with respect to specific extrinsic factors, such as patient age, body mass index, current as well as previous professions and sport activities, smoking habit, and systemic metabolic diseases. While patient age, sports‐activity level, and preexisting rotator cuff lesions were considered to contribute most strongly to tendinopathogenesis, no further coherences were found. With regards to gene expression analysis, change in expression correlated most strongly with patient age and severity of the rotator cuff pathology. Further, chronic disorders increased overall gene expression variation. Taken together, our study provides further evidence that tendon degeneration is the consequence of a multifactorial process and pathological changes of the supraspinatus tendon affect the quality of SSC tendon and most likely vice versa. Therefore, the rotator cuff tendons need to be considered as a unit when managing rotator cuff pathologies.
Keywords: rotator cuff tear; tendon degeneration; gene expression profiling; histological analysis; extrinsic risk factors