Rotator cuff tear imaging in patients over 70 years: specific MRI findings?

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2013 Dec;99(8 Suppl):S385-90. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


Background: During the symposium held by the French Arthroscopy Society on rotator cuff tears in patients over 70 years of age, the absence of studies into potential specific pathological features in this age group was pointed out. Here, our main objective was to describe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in this patient population.

Hypothesis: Tendons and muscles are smaller, lamellar dissection more prominent, and dystrophic changes more marked in patients over 70 years of age.

Material and method: We retrospectively studied 50 patients with isolated supraspinatus tears, including 25 younger than 50 and 25 older than 70 years of age. Tear size and retraction were evaluated according to Patte; tendon thickness, lamellar dissection, and fatty infiltration according to Goutallier; muscle size according to Thomazeau; and the tangent sign according to Zanetti.

Results: In contradiction to our study hypothesis, lateral tendon thickness was similar in the two age groups. Medial thickness of the tendon-muscle junction, however, was greater in the younger group. Lamellar dissection was more marked and fatty infiltration more severe in the older group. As expected, marked muscle wasting and a positive tangent sign were noted in over two-thirds of patients in the older group.

Conclusion: This preliminary study in a small number of patients identified specific MRI features of supraspinatus tears in patients older than 70 years compared to younger patients. A larger study would be useful to confirm these findings.

Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging; Older patients; Rotator cuff tear.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sprains and Strains / diagnosis*
  • Sprains and Strains / surgery
  • Tendon Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery