Sonography of the rotator cuff in painful shoulders performed without knowledge of clinical information: results from 58 sonographic examinations with surgical correlation

J Clin Ultrasound. 2007 Jan;35(1):20-6. doi: 10.1002/jcu.20286.


Purpose: To assess the value of sonography as an isolated diagnostic test for the detection and quantification of rotator cuff tears.

Methods: Preoperative sonographic examination was performed on 58 shoulders. Key biases on sonographic interpretation such as history-taking, physical examination, or concurrent imaging examinations were excluded by way of blinding. Tears of the rotator cuff were the positive findings of interest. Assessment of tear size and localization was done sonographically, and the results were compared with operative findings.

Results: All 24 full-thickness tears observed at surgery had been diagnosed correctly via sonography. In 19 of 20 cases with an intact rotator cuff, preoperative sonography was negative. Thirteen of 14 partial-thickness tears were not detected via sonography; 1 was misinterpreted as a full-thickness tear. Location of the tears relative to the rotator cuff tendons was described correctly in 21 of 25 cases. For tear size measurement, the 95% range of agreement was less than +/-1 cm.

Conclusions: Blinded sonographic examination is effective in the detection and quantification of full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff but lacks sensitivity in the detection of partial-thickness tears.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shoulder Pain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / surgery
  • Tendon Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery
  • Ultrasonography