Rotator cuff tear degeneration and cell apoptosis in smokers versus nonsmokers

Kirsten Lundgreen, Oystein Lian, Alexander Scott, Paulina Nassab, Angie FEARON, Lars Engebretsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of smoking on supraspinatus tendon degeneration, including cellular alterations, proliferation, and apoptosis of tendon cells.

METHODS: Supraspinatus tendon samples of 10 smokers and 15 nonsmokers with full-thickness tears were compared, focusing on the severity of tendon histopathology including apoptosis (programmed cell death), cellularity, and proliferation. Immunohistochemistry was used to assess the density of apoptotic cells and proliferation. The extent of tendon degeneration was classified according to a revised version of the Bonar tendon histopathology score.

RESULTS: The smokers were younger (P = .01). The symptom duration among smokers was longer (P < .05). The supraspinatus tendons from the smokers presented significantly more advanced degenerative changes (Bonar score, 13.5 [interquartile range, 1.4] v 9 [interquartile range, 3]; P < .001). The smokers' tendons showed increased density of apoptotic cells (0.108 [SE, 0.038] v 0.0107 [SE, 0.007]; P = .024) accompanied by reduced tenocyte density (P = .019) and upregulation of proliferative activity (P < .0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Smoking is associated with worsened supraspinatus tendon histopathology and increased apoptosis.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Pronounced degenerative changes, reduced tendon cellularity, and increased apoptosis may indicate reduced tendon healing capacity in smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-941
Number of pages6
JournalArthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopy and Related Surgery
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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