Background: A rotator cuff tear is a common disabling shoulder problem. Symptoms include pain, weakness, lack of mobility and sleep disturbance. Many patients require surgery to repair the tear; however, there is a high failure rate. There is a pressing need to improve the outcome of rotator cuff surgery. The use of patch augmentation to provide support to the healing process and improve patient outcomes holds new promise. Different materials (e.g. human/animal skin or intestine tissue, and completely synthetic materials) and processes (e.g. woven or a mesh) have been used to produce patches. However, clinical evidence on their use is limited. The patch augmented rotator cuff surgery (PARCS) feasibility study aimed to determine the design of a definitive randomised controlled trial (RCT) assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a patch to augment surgical repair of the rotator cuff that is both acceptable to stakeholders and feasible. Methods: A mixed methods feasibility study of conducing a subsequent RCT. The project involved six stages: a systematic review of clinical evidence; a survey of the British Elbow and Shoulder Society’s (BESS) surgical membership; a survey of surgeon trialists; focus groups and interviews with stakeholders; a two-round Delphi study administered via online questionnaires and a 2-day consensus meeting. Results: The BESS surgeons’ survey identified a variety of patches in use (105 (21%) responses received). Twenty-four surgeons (77%) completed the trialist survey relating to trial design. Four focus groups were conducted involving 24 stakeholders. Twenty-nine (67% of invited) individuals took part in the Delphi. Differing views were held on a number of aspects including the appropriate patient population for trial participation. Agreement on the key research questions and the outline of two potential RCTs were achieved through the Delphi study and the consensus meeting. Conclusions: Randomised comparisons of on-lay patch use for completed rotator cuff repairs, and bridging patch use for partial rotator cuff repairs were identified as areas for further research. The value of an observational study to assess safety concerns of patch use was also highlighted. The main limitation was that the findings were influenced by the participants, who might not necessarily reflect all stakeholders.
Pilot and Feasibility Studies