Recurrent rotator cuff tear: is ultrasound imaging reliable? Academic Article uri icon


  • Background and hypothesis: The diagnostic workup of the painful shoulder after rotator cuff repair (RCR) can be quite challenging. The aim of this study was to assess the reliability of ultrasonography (US) for the detection of recurrent rotator cuff tears in patients with shoulder pain after RCR. We hypothesized that US for the diagnosis of recurrent rotator cuff tear after RCR would not prove to be reliable when compared with surgical arthroscopic confirmation (gold standard). Methods: In this cohort study (diagnosis), we retrospectively analyzed the data of 39 patients with shoulder pain after arthroscopic RCR who had subsequently undergone US, followed by revision arthroscopy. The rotator cuff was evaluated first using US for the presence of retears. Thereafter, revision arthroscopy was performed, and the diagnosis was either established or disproved. The sensitivity and specificity of US were assessed in reference to revision arthroscopy (gold standard). Results: A rotator cuff retear was indicated by US in 21 patients (54%) and by revision arthroscopy in 26 patients (67%). US showed a sensitivity of 80.8% and specificity of 100% in the diagnosis of rotator cuff retears. Omission of partial rotator cuff retears resulted in a spike in sensitivity to 94.7%, with 100% specificity remaining. Conclusion: US imaging is a highly sensitive and specific test for the detection of recurrent rotator cuff tears, as confirmed by revision arthroscopy, in patients with a painful shoulder after primary RCR.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018