Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Pectoralis Major Injuries in an Active Duty Military Cohort: Mechanism Affects Tear Location

Orthop J Sports Med. 2020 Jun 10;8(6):2325967120925019. doi: 10.1177/2325967120925019. eCollection 2020 Jun.


Background: Pectoralis major (PM) tendon tears are common injuries in athletic patient populations, where operative repair is largely recommended for maximum functional recovery. The repair varies in difficulty and technique based on the location of the tear within the muscle-tendon unit. Magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) has been reported to be sensitive and specific for identifying the tear location, but the effect of injury mechanism on tear pattern has not been previously investigated.

Purpose: To examine PM tears in a military patient population and assess the effect of injury mechanism (weightlifting vs high-energy trauma) on the tear pattern and accuracy of MRI interpretation.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Active duty military servicemembers undergoing operative repair of PM tendon tears with corresponding preoperative MRIs from 2 medical centers were identified. Two musculoskeletal fellowship-trained radiologists reviewed imaging studies, reporting the location of the tear within the muscle-tendon unit and the severity of the tear (sternal head vs clavicular head vs both). Radiographic findings were compared against intraoperative findings. Mechanism of injury and timing from injury to imaging and surgery were assessed to determine whether they affected the accuracy of MRI interpretations.

Results: A total of 72 patients were included (mean ± SD age, 33.7 ± 7.0 years; 100% male). Mechanisms of injury consisted of 46 weightlifting injuries and 26 high-energy injuries. Interrater reliability was poor for tear location (kappa, 0.162; P = .003) but substantial for extent of tear (kappa, 0.637; P < .0001). MRI had a 51.3% sensitivity and 63.6% specificity for identifying complete tears. MRI had a sensitivity of 73.9% and specificity of 72.2% for avulsion injuries and sensitivity of 75% and specificity of 79.3% for musculotendinous injuries. Mechanism of injury had no effect on extent of the tear but did affect the location of the tear, with a higher rate of avulsion injuries in the high-energy mechanism cohort (81% vs 40%; P = .02).

Conclusion: The mechanism of injury was found to significantly affect the location of tendon tears. A higher rate of avulsion injuries was found in high-energy injuries than weightlifting injuries. MRI appeared to be less sensitive and specific than previous reports for traumatic PM tendon injuries.

Keywords: injury; magnetic resonance imaging; military; pectoralis major; treatment.