Long-term Clinical Outcomes After Microfracture of the Glenohumeral Joint: Average 10-Year Follow-up

Kevin C. Wang, Rachel M. Frank, Eric J. Cotter, Annabelle Davey, Maximilian A. Meyer, Charles P. Hannon, Timothy Leroux, Anthony A. Romeo, Brian J. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Microfracture is an effective surgical treatment for full-thickness cartilage defects of the knee; however, little is known regarding long-term outcomes after microfracture in the shoulder. Purpose: To present long-term clinical outcomes of patients undergoing microfracture of full-thickness articular cartilage defects of the glenohumeral joint. Study Design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: Sixteen consecutive patients (17 shoulders) were retrospectively reviewed who underwent arthroscopic microfracture of the humeral head and/or glenoid surface, with or without additional procedures between 2001 and 2008 and with a minimum follow-up of 8.5 years. All patients completed pre- and postoperative surveys containing the visual analog scale, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons form, and Simple Shoulder Test. Complications and reoperations were analyzed. Failure was defined by biological resurfacing or conversion to arthroplasty. Results: Of the original 16 patients (17 shoulders), 13 patients (14 shoulders) were available for mean follow-up at 10.2 ± 1.8 years after microfracture (range, 8.5-15.8 years), for an overall clinical follow-up rate of 82%. The patients (6 men, 7 women) were 36.1 ± 12.9 years old at time of microfracture. The average size of humeral head defects was 5.20 cm2 (range, 4.0-7.84 cm2), and the average size of glenoid defects was 1.53 cm2 (range, 1.0-3.75 cm2). Four patients (4 shoulders) underwent at least 1 reoperation, and 3 were considered to have structural failures. The average time to failure was 3.7 years after microfracture (range, 0.2-9.6 years). The overall survival rate was 76.6% at 9.6 years. For these patients, there were statistically significant improvements in visual analog scale, Simple Shoulder Test, and American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons scores as compared with preoperative values at long-term follow-up (P <.05 for all), without any significant change from short-term (mean, 2.3 years) to long-term (mean, 10.2 years) follow-up. There was no significant difference in Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation or Short Form–12 Physical or Mental scores between short- and long-term follow-up. When compared with short-term follow-up, in which 2 patients had already failed, 1 additional patient progressed to failure at 9.6 years after the original microfracture. Two patients (2 shoulders) were considered to have clinical failure. Owing to the overall number of failures (3 structural failure and 2 clinical failure), the total long-term success rate of glenohumeral microfracture is 66.7% in the current study. Conclusion: Treating full-thickness symptomatic chondral defects of the glenohumeral joint with microfracture can result in long-term improved function and reduced pain for some patients. However, in this case series, 21.4% of patients required conversion to arthroplasty <10 years after the index microfracture procedure, and 33% to 42% of patients were considered to have potential clinical failure. Additional studies with larger patient cohorts are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-794
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cartilage
  • glenohumeral
  • long term
  • microfracture


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