Rotator cuff tear

Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain mostly in older patients.

Clinical presentation

Prevalence of tear increases with age. Most significant findings are impingement and "arc of pain" sign (pain during descent of abducted arm) 1. Supraspinatus weakness, night pain and weakness of external rotation (seen in infraspinatus tear) are also seen.

Pathology

Aetiology

Important causes of rotator cuff tear include:

Subtypes

A modification of the original Codman classification system published in 1930:

Radiographic features

Exact features depend on the type of tear, general features include

Plain radiograph
  • may show a decreased acromiohumeral interval
    • <6 mm on true AP shoulder radiograph
    • <2 mm on an 'active abduction' view
  • may show decreased supraspinatus opacity and decreased bulk due to atrophy, may be seen in chronic cases (on an 'outlet view')
  • humeral subluxation superiorly may be seen in late cases
  • may show features of acromial impingement -
    • spur formation on the undersurface of acromioclavicular joint
    • acromion with an inferolateral tilt (type III acromion) seen on outlet view i.e. modified 'Y' view
  • secondary degenerative changes - sclerosis, subchondral cysts, osteolysis, and notching or pitting of greater tuberosity
Ultrasound

In the hands of good radiologist, ultrasound may have up to 90% sensitivity and specificity. It can also reveal other mimics like tendinosis, calcific tendinitis, subacromial subdeltoid bursitis, greater tuberosity fracture and adhesive capsulitis.

Full-thickness tears extend from bursal to articular surface, while partial thickness tears are focal defects in the tendon that involve either the bursal or articular surface. Full-thickness appear on ultrasound as hypoechoic/anechoic defects in the tendon. Due to the fluid replacing tendon, cartilage shadow gets accentuated giving a 'double cortex' or 'cartilage interface sign'. Also, due to the defect, overlying peribursal fat dips down into the tendon gap, creating a 'sagging peribursal fat' sign 1.

Direct signs are:

  • non-visualization of supraspinatus tendon
  • hypoechoic discontinuity in tendon

Indirect signs are:

Secondary associated signs are:

  • cortical irregularity of greater tuberosity
  • shoulder joint effusion
  • fluid along biceps tendon
  • fluid in axillary pouch and posterior recess
MRI

Complete tears are easier to diagnose on MRI than full-thickness tear 2 . Hyperintense signal area within the tendon on T2W, fat-suppressed and GRE sequences, usually corresponding to fluid signal is seen.

Partial tears are extending to either bursal or articular surface, and sometimes intrasubstance. Retraction of tendinous fibers from the distal insertion into the greater tuberosity may also be considered partial tear.

Complete tears extend from articular to bursal surface, most commonly in supraspinatus tendon. Presence of tendon defect filled with fluid is most direct sign of rotator cuff tear. Tendon retraction may also be present, which can be graded using the Patte classification. Indirect signs on MRI are - subdeltoid bursal effusion, medial dislocation of biceps, fluid along biceps tendon, and diffuse loss of peribursal fat planes. Muscle atrophy and fatty replacement is seen in chronic cases and can be graded using the Goutallier classification 6. Chronic tears have degenerative changes at acromioclavicular joint, acromioclavicular joint cysts, as well as intramuscular cysts.

MR arthrography may enhance the detection of rotator cuff tears, especially complete tears.

Differential diagnosis

General imaging differential considerations include

See also

Edit Article Share
URL of Article

Article Information

rID: 16247
System: Musculoskeletal
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Tears of the rotator cuff
  • Rotator cuff tearings
  • Drag
    Case 1
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 2: with muscle atrophy
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 3: with medial dislocation of biceps
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 4: with rotator cuff repair
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Subscapularis ten...
    Case 5: subscapularis tendon tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    T2*
    Case 6: subscapularis tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 7: supraspinatus rim rent
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 8: chronic rupture
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 9
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 10: with intramuscular cyst
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 11: full thickness supraspinatus tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 12
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 13
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
     Case 14
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 15: complete supraspinatus tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 16: supraspinatus tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 17
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 18: interstitial SSP tendon tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 19
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 20: on arthrography
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Full thickness su...
    Case 21: subscapularis tear
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.
    Loadinganimation

    Alert_accept

    Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

    Alert_accept Thank you for updating your details.