Ultrasound of the shoulder: asymptomatic findings in men

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2011 Oct;197(4):W713-9. doi: 10.2214/AJR.11.6971.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the range and prevalence of asymp tomatic findings at sonography of the shoulder.

Materials and methods: The study sample comprised 51 consecutively enrolled subjects who had no symptoms in either shoulder. Ultrasound of one shoulder per patient was performed by a musculoskeletal sonographer according to a defined protocol that included imaging of the rotator cuff, tendon of the long head of the biceps brachii muscle, subacromial-subdeltoid bursa, acromioclavicular joint, and posterior labrum. The shoulder imaged was determined at random. The 51 scans were retrospectively analyzed by three fellowship-trained musculoskeletal radiologists in consensus, and pathologic findings were recorded. Subtle or questionable findings of mild tendinosis, bursal prominence, and mild osteoarthritis were not recorded.

Results: Twenty-five right and 26 left shoulders were imaged. The subject age range was 40-70 years. Ultrasound showed subacromial-subdeltoid bursal thickening in 78% (40/51) of the subjects, acromioclavicular joint osteoarthritis in 65% (33/51), supraspinatus tendinosis in 39% (20/51), subscapularis tendinosis in 25% (13/51), partial-thickness tear of the bursal side of the supraspinatus tendon in 22% (11/51), and posterior glenoid labral abnormality in 14% (7/51). All other findings had a prevalence of 10% or less.

Conclusion: Asymptomatic shoulder abnormalities were found in 96% of the subjects. The most common were subacromial-subdeltoid bursal thickening, acromioclavicular joint osteoarthritis, and supraspinatus tendinosis. Ultrasound findings should be interpreted closely with clinical findings to determine the cause of symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bursitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Shoulder Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology
  • Tendinopathy / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography