Full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff of the shoulder: Diagnosis with MR imaging

T. E. Farley, C. H. Neumann, L. S. Steinbach, A. J. Jahnke, S. S. Petersen

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107 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to describe MR findings in full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff. Of 102 shoulders examined by MR imaging, 31 were found to have a full-thickness tendon tear at arthroscopy/bursoscopy (five shoulders) or open surgery (26 shoulders). All shoulders were imaged in oblique coronal and axial planes. MR images of the 102 shoulders were evaluated for (1) the presence of fluid in the subacromial and subdeltoid bursae; (2) abnormal signal of the supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor tendons; (3) interruption of tendon continuity and thinning of the tendon; and (4) proximal retraction of the junction of the muscle and tendon. The presence or absence of each finding was determined by consensus of two radiologists, who interpreted the images without knowledge of the surgical findings. Results in those 31 shoulders with proved full-thickness tears were: fluid in the subacromial bursae (29 shoulders), interruption of tendinous continuity (22 shoulders), focally increased signal of the tendon equivalent to that of water (27 shoulders), and musculotendinous retraction (24 shoulders). The finding of subacromial fluid was a sensitive indicator (93%) of a full-thickness tear, and interruption of tendinous continuity was a specific finding (96%) in diagnosing a full- thickness tear. Our experience shows interruption of tendon continuity is the most specific MR finding of full-thickness rotator cuff tears, while subacromial fluid is the most common finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-351
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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