Standard proton-density- and T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and MR arthrography were used to depict rotator cuff disease in 36 shoulders in 36 patients; the findings were compared with arthroscopic findings in every patient. In 19 rotator cuffs normal at arthroscopy, MR arthrography revealed no tear in 16 patients, a partial tear in one patient, and a full-thickness tear in two patients. Standard proton-density- and T2-weighted images were normal in 15 of these patients and revealed a partial tear in two patients and a full-thickness tear in two patients. In 13 partial tears found at arthroscopy, MR arthrography showed a partial tear in six patients, no tear in five patients, and a full-thickness tear in two patients; standard MR imaging revealed a partial tear in one patient, no tear in 10 patients, and a full-thickness tear in two patients. All four full-thickness tears proved with arthroscopy were correctly diagnosed with both MR imaging methods. The main advantage of MR arthrography was better depiction of partial tears in the articular surface.