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Choosing between Ultrasound and MRI to Find a Torn Rotator Cuff

Ultrasound and MRIs are both used to find and measure rotator cuff tears in the shoulder. But which method is better? The results of this study show these two imaging methods are equally accurate. The doctor may choose one over the other based on other factors besides accuracy.

All patients in this study had an ultrasound and MRI of the same shoulder on the same day. Radiologists with more than 10 years of experience viewed the images. Rotator cuff tears were measured and labeled as either partial- or full-thickness tears.

Arthroscopic surgery was then done to check the findings. The torn tendon was also repaired. The imaging measure was correct if it was within five millimeters of what was found with arthroscopy. The researchers report that ultrasound found 98 percent of the full-thickness rotator cuff tears diagnosed by arthroscopy. MRI found 100 percent of the full-thickness tears.

Both imaging methods were less accurate at finding partial-thickness tears. Ultrasound found 68 percent and MRI found 63 percent of the partial tears.

The authors conclude that ultrasound and MRI are equally good ways to assess rotator cuff tears. It's up to the doctor to choose which method to use. The choice may be based on cost, patient concerns, and imaging experience at the hospital or clinic.

Sharlene A. Teefey, MD, et al. Detection and Quantification of Rotator Cuff Tears. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. April 2004. Vol. 86-A. No. 4. Pp. 708-716.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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