MR imaging of the rotator cuff: peritendinous and bone abnormalities in an asymptomatic population

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996 Apr;166(4):863-7. doi: 10.2214/ajr.166.4.8610564.


Objective: MR imaging of the shoulder was performed in an asymptomatic population to determine the prevalence of MR-evident peritendinous and bone abnormalities. Findings were correlated with subject age and rotator cuff abnormalities.

Subjects and methods: Dual-echo T2-weighted oblique coronal MR images of the shoulder were evaluated for 100 asymptomatic volunteers who were 19-88 years old. Twenty symptomatic patients with arthroscopic correlation were included as controls. Images were assessed independently by two reviewers with no knowledge of subject history or symptomatology. Bursal, peribursal, and bone findings were correlated with subject age and the appearance of the rotator cuff tendon.

Results: Changes characteristic of acromioclavicular joint osteoarthrosis were present in three fourths of the shoulders. One third had subacromial spurs. Changes in the peribursal fat plane and the presence of fluid in the subacromial-subdeltoid bursa paralleled the degree of MR-evident rotator cuff abnormalities. Joint fluid was observed in nearly all subjects.

Conclusion: Our findings reveal a high prevalence of MR-evident bone and peritendinous shoulder abnormalities among asymptomatic individuals. The prevalence of subacromial spurs and humeral head cysts correlated closely with the severity of MR-evident rotator cuff abnormalities, as did changes in the bursa and peribursal fat. Acromioclavicular joint osteoarthrosis is seen in many shoulders independently of rotator cuff disease; therefore, its presence alone does not appear to be a reliable indicator of pain or tendon disease.

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Acromioclavicular Joint / pathology
  • Acromion / anatomy & histology
  • Acromion / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnosis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Reference Values
  • Rotator Cuff / anatomy & histology*
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Shoulder Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology
  • Tendons / pathology