Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I'm going to be seeing the doctor for a shoulder exam. I'm pretty sure I have a torn rotator cuff. Should I ask for an MRI?


Your surgeon will know the best tests to order based on your history and the examination. MRIs give good contrast of the soft tissues. It's an ideal way to see inside the joint without actually opening it up.

MRIs are only 84 to 96 percent accurate in finding rotator cuff tears (RCT). Magnetic Resonance Arthrography (MRA) may be a better choice if a RCT is suspected.

MRA uses the natural fluid in the joint as a way to look for "holes" in the capsule from a RCT. A contrasting agent is injected into the joint. Any fluid that shows up outside the capsule must have moved through the defect.

MRA isn't available everywhere. Ask your surgeon if it's available in your area and if it's recommended for your situation.

Hiromitsu Toyoda, MD, et al. Evaluation of Rotator Cuff Tears with Magnetic Resonance Arthrography. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. October 2005. Vol. 439. Pp. 109-115.

*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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