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We have used Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to characterise the chemical and structural composition of the tendons of the rotator cuff and to identify structural differences among anatomically distinct tears. Such information may help to identify biomarkers of tears and to provide insight into the rates of healing of different sizes of tear. The infrared spectra of 81 partial, small, medium, large and massive tears were measured using FTIR and compared with 11 uninjured control tendons. All the spectra were classified using standard techniques of multivariate analysis. FTIR readily differentiates between normal and torn tendons, and different sizes of tear. We identified the key discriminating molecules and spectra altered in torn tendons to be carbohydrates/phospholipids (1030 cm(-1) to 1200 cm(-1)), collagen (1300 cm(-1) to 1700 cm(-1) and 3000 cm(-1) to 3350 cm(-1)) and lipids (2800 cm(-1) to 3000 cm(-1)). Our study has shown that FTIR spectroscopy can identify tears of the rotator cuff of varying size based upon distinguishable chemical and structural features. The onset of a tear is mainly associated with altered structural arrangements of collagen, with changes in lipids and carbohydrates. The approach described is rapid and has the potential to be used peri-operatively to determine the quality of the tendon and the extent of the disease, thus guiding surgical repair.

Original publication




Journal article


J Bone Joint Surg Br

Publication Date





370 - 377


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Arthroscopy, Collagen, Humans, Middle Aged, Rotator Cuff, Rotator Cuff Injuries, Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared, Tendon Injuries, Trauma Severity Indices