Sonography of the rotator cuff: analysis of interobserver variability

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2004 Nov;183(5):1465-8. doi: 10.2214/ajr.183.5.1831465.


Objective: The purpose of our study was to determine the interobserver variability in the sonographic evaluation of the rotator cuff.

Subjects and methods: Two radiologists independently scanned 61 patients with shoulder pain. Each radiologist categorized the rotator cuff as normal, partially torn, or fully torn. When a tear was present, the tendons involved were specified. All diagnoses were made prospectively without knowledge of the findings of the other radiologist.

Results: The radiologists were in full agreement in the categorization of 92% (56/61) of the patients. In four of the five discrepant cases, the disagreement was whether there was a full-thickness or a partial-thickness tear. The radiologists were in agreement concerning which tendons were involved in 80% (41/51) of the patients in whom a tear was detected by both observers. In all 10 discrepant cases, the disagreement was whether a tear involved both the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons or was isolated to one or the other of these tendons.

Conclusion: The level of interobserver variability in the sonographic detection and characterization of rotator cuff tears is low.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Ultrasonography