Rim rent tear of rotator cuff

Last revised by Arvin Haghighat on 7 Sep 2023

A rim rent tear of the rotator cuff, also known as partial articular surface tendon avulsion, is a specific subtype of partial-thickness rotator cuff tear that involves the articular surface footprint at the site of tendon attachment into the greater tubercle 2. Such small tears can extend along the tendon fibers, causing tendon delamination, which corresponds to Snyder’s III or IV classification.

This sort of tear is relatively common and also can involve the infraspinatus tendon 3.

Involvement of the bursal surface can also occur (reverse partial articular surface tendon avulsion).

Partial articular surface tendon avulsion lesions are frequent in overhead athletes, younger people and smoker patients.

  • intrinsic factors

    • aging with changes in rotator cuff vascularity and metabolic changes associated

  • extrinsic factors

    • shear stresses on the supraspinatus tendon from narrowing of the coracoacromial arch (extrinsic impingement)

    • microtrauma from repetitive contact of the articular surface of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons with the posterosuperior part of the glenoid during arm abduction and lateral rotation

Not all partial articular surface tendon avulsion lesions are symptomatic. Often shoulder pain when lifting outwards, overhead and throwing.

X-ray of the shoulder with an anteroposterior view, axillary lateral view and a supraspinatus outlet view are not specific.

It may be seen as an echogenic edge and a cortical defect at the footprint. However anisotropy artifacts often make it challenging to recognize partial articular supraspinatus tendon avulsion by ultrasound.

Partial articular surface tendon avulsion lesions appear in coronal T2 images and in Glenohumeral arthrography as linear fluid signal defects at the articular surface of the supraspinatus tendon, near the attachment (footprint) on bone interface.

Initially conservative treatment with activity modification, without overhead or pain-provoking actions, and physical therapy.

Surgery if the pain is not coming down by three to six months of nonoperative treatment and than one half of the thickness of the supraspinatus tendon is torn.

  • arthroscopic debridement of the tear

  • debridement with acromioplasty

  • rotator cuff repair with or without acromioplasty

The term “rim-rent” was first used by the American surgeon Ernest Armory Codman in 1934 3,4.

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Cases and figures

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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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