Rotator cuff tears in asymptomatic individuals: a clinical and ultrasonographic screening study

Eur J Radiol. 2004 Sep;51(3):263-8. doi: 10.1016/S0720-048X(03)00159-1.


Objective: To determine the prevalence and clinical impact of rotator cuff tears in asymptomatic volunteers.

Materials and methods: Sonographic examinations of the shoulder of 212 asymptomatic individuals between 18 and 85 years old were performed by a single experienced operator. The prevalence and location of complete rotator cuff tears were evaluated. The clinical assessment was based on the Constant Score. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the shoulder was obtained in those patients where US showed rotator cuff pathology.

Results: Ultrasound showed a complete rupture of the supraspinatus tendon in 6% of 212 patients from 56 to 83 years of age (mean: 67 years). MRI confirmed a complete rupture of the supraspinatus tendon in 90%. All patients reported no functional deficits, although strength was significantly lower in the patient group with complete supraspinatus tendon tear (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: There is a higher prevalence in older individuals of rotator cuff tendon tears that cause no pain or decrease in activities of daily living.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bursa, Synovial / diagnostic imaging
  • Bursa, Synovial / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Humerus / diagnostic imaging
  • Humerus / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Rupture
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Ultrasonography