OBJECTIVE: To document the incidence of asymptomatic rotator cuff tears in patients with a confirmed symptomatic tear in the opposite shoulder, and to identify ultrasound
findings that may distinguish symptomatic from asymptomatic tears.
DESIGN: When patients are referred for an ultrasound examination for the confirmation of symptomatic rotator cuff tear the opposite shoulder is often used for comparison. However, patients often have a similar tear on the asymptomatic side. Fifty patients with a confirmed symptomatic rotator cuff tear and an asymptomatic shoulder on the opposite side were chosen for inclusion. The patients were examined using a Siemens Sonoline Elegra 7.5 MHz linear multi-frequency probe. The appearance of the rotator cuff, long head of the biceps and the subacromial-subdeltoid bursa (SASD bursa) were documented. The antero-posterior
(AP) dimension of the supraspinatus muscle and fat between the trapezius and supraspinatus muscles were measured, which indicated if a tear was acute or chronic.
The width and length of the rotator cuff tear were measured. SETTING: Division of Sports Medicine, University of Pretoria.
RESULTS: Fifty-four per cent of the asymptomatic shoulders had tears. We found that the symptomatic tears were larger, appeared more chronic and had an associated biceps tendinopathy and glenohumeral joint effusion.