Purpose: To determine if direct contact between the biceps tendon and supraspinatus in patients undergoing shoulder arthroscopy performed in the lateral decubitus position has predictive value in evaluating full-thickness and articular-sided, partial-thickness rotator cuff tears.
Methods: Five hundred sixty-three consecutive shoulder arthroscopies in the lateral decubitus position were performed by a single surgeon between September 2005 and September 2007. The presence or absence of distance between the biceps tendon and supraspinatus was evaluated upon entering the joint. A diagnostic arthroscopy of the glenohumeral and subacromial spaces then ensued to determine the presence and extent of rotator cuff tear.
Results: The biceps-supraspinatus interval was preserved in 211 of 232 (90.9%) of the articular-sided, partial-thickness tears. The biceps-supraspinatus space was absent in 76 of 77 (98.7%) of the full-thickness tears. After excluding cases of concomitant adhesive capsulitis, all 211 articular-sided, partial-thickness rotator cuff tears and only 1 of 75 (1.3%) full-thickness rotator cuff tears was associated with a preserved biceps-supraspinatus interval (false negative).
Conclusions: Our study further validates the high sensitivity and specificity of using the loss of supraspinatus distension for predicting full-thickness rotator cuff tears. We also report the reliable preservation of supraspinatus distension with articular-sided, partial-thickness rotator cuff tears. These articular-sided partial-thickness tears typically do not lead to sufficient egress of arthroscopic fluid from the glenohumeral joint to cause a loss of supraspinatus distension.
Level of evidence: Level IV, prognostic case series.