Shoulder diagnoses in secondary care, a one year cohort

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014 Mar 18;15:89. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-89.


Background: Shoulder pain is common in the general population. Reports on specific diagnoses in general populations are scarce and only from primary care. The diagnostic distribution of shoulder disorders in secondary care is not reported. Most of the clinical research in the shoulder field is done in hospital settings. The aim of this study was to identify the diagnoses in a 1-year cohort in a hospital-based outpatient clinic using standardized diagnostic criteria and to compare the results with previous studies.

Methods: A diagnostic routine was conducted among patients referred to our physical medicine outpatient clinic at Oslo University Hospital. Diagnostic criteria were derived from the literature and supplemented with research criteria.

Results: Of 766 patients diagnosed, 55% were women and the mean age was 49 years (range 19-93, SD ± 14). The most common diagnoses were subacromial pain (36%), myalgia (17%) and adhesive capsulitis (11%). Subacromial pain and adhesive capsulitis were most frequent in persons aged 40-60 years. Shoulder myalgia was most frequent in age groups under 40. Labral tears and instability problems (8%) were most frequent in young patients and not present after age 50. Full-thickness rotator cuff tears (8%) and glenohumeral osteoarthritis (4%) were more prevalent after the age of 60. Few differences were observed between sexes. We identified three studies reporting shoulder diagnoses in primary care.

Conclusion: Subacromial pain syndrome, myalgia and adhesive capsulitis were the most prevalent diagnoses in our study. However, large differences in prevalence between different studies were found, most likely arising from different use of diagnostic criteria and a difference in populations between primary and secondary care. Of the diagnoses in our cohort, 20% were not reported by the studies from primary care (glenohumeral osteoarthritis, full thickness rotator cuff tears, labral tears and instabilities).

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint / pathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bursitis / complications
  • Bursitis / diagnosis
  • Bursitis / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myalgia / complications
  • Myalgia / diagnosis
  • Myalgia / epidemiology
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Secondary Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / complications
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Young Adult