Sonography of the shoulder in patients with tears of the rotator cuff: accuracy and value for selecting surgical options

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1993 Jan;160(1):103-7; discussion 109-10. doi: 10.2214/ajr.160.1.8416605.


Objective: The management of patients with signs and symptoms referable to the rotator cuff depends on the presence of cuff injury and the size of the tear. Treatment options include conservative nonsurgical management for patients with an intact or partially torn cuff, arthroscopic decompression of the coracoacromial space for those not responding to nonsurgical management, and a range of surgical techniques to repair full-thickness tears. This study was designed to determine whether sonographic evaluation with classification of the extent of cuff injury is accurate for purposes of treatment planning.

Subjects and methods: Preoperative sonography of the rotator cuff was performed on 225 patients, and findings were classified into intact, partial tear, small full-thickness tear, large full-thickness tear, and massive tear groups. Surgical correlation with the predicted sonographic classification was provided by arthroscopic inspection or open surgery.

Results: The sonographic findings were surgically confirmed for 206 (92%) of the 225 patients. More extensive cuff injury was encountered during surgery than had been predicted sonographically in 11 patients (5%); less extensive injury than predicted was found during surgery in eight patients (4%).

Conclusion: Our results show a high correlation between the sonographic classification of rotator cuff injury and the surgical findings. The selection of appropriate treatment programs can be reliably based on the sonographic classification.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Shoulder Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Shoulder Joint / surgery
  • Ultrasonography