Learning curve of office-based ultrasonography for rotator cuff tendons tears

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Jul;21(7):1593-7. doi: 10.1007/s00167-012-2105-4. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Purpose: To compare the accuracy of ultrasonography and MR arthrography (MRA) imaging in detecting of rotator cuff tears with arthroscopic finding used as the reference standard.

Methods: The ultrasonography and MRA findings of 51 shoulders that underwent the arthroscopic surgery were prospectively analysed. Two orthopaedic doctors independently performed ultrasonography and interpreted the findings at the office. The tear size measured at ultrasonography and MRA was compared with the size measured at surgery using Pearson correlation coefficients (r). The sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, negative predictive value and false-positive rate were calculated for a diagnosis of partial-and full-thickness rotator cuff tears. The kappa coefficient was calculated to verify the inter-observer agreement.

Results: The sensitivity of ultrasonography and MRA for detecting partial-thickness tears was 45.5 and 72.7 %, and that for full-thickness tears was 80.0 and 100 %, respectively. The accuracy of ultrasonograpy and MRA for detecting partial-thickness tears was 45.1 and 88.2 %, and that for full-thickness tears was 82.4 and 98 %, respectively. Tear size measured based on ultrasonography examination showed a poor correlation with the size measured at arthroscopic surgery (r = 0.21; p < 0.05). However, tear size estimated by MRA showed a strong correlation (r = 0.75; p < 0.05). The kappa coefficient was 0.47 between the two independent examiners.

Conclusions: The accuracy of office-based ultrasonography for beginner orthopaedic surgeons to detect full-thickness rotator cuff tears was comparable to that of MRA but was less accurate for detecting partial-thickness tears and torn size measurement. Inter-observer agreement on the interpretation was fair. These results highlight the importance of the correct technique and experience in operation of ultrasonography in shoulder joint.

Level of evidence: Diagnostic study, Level II.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning Curve*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Physicians' Offices
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography