Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

Last year I fell and broke my wrist. Yesterday I wrenched my shoulder. I think I may have torn my rotator cuff. Since I know I don't want to have any more surgery, is there really any point in having an MRI?

Answer:

There are many possible sources of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff (RTC) may be one of them. Damage to the RTC ranges anywhere from an acute strain to a full tear with many variations in between.

MRI assesses the integrity of the rotator cuff tendons (there are four tendons total). Signal intensity helps show areas of irregularity and thinning. Usually a patient history (how the injury happened, what makes it better or worse) and physical exam are also needed to make the final diagnosis.

Whether or not to have an MRI is your decision. Your physician can help you by offering pros and cons based on his or her findings after the history and exam. The cost of the procedure may be one consideration.

But keep in mind that the MRI helps pinpoint the exact problem. This makes it possible to plan the most appropriate treatment known to work for that problem. You save time and money this way and optimally gain pain relief and improved function faster. This allows you to get back to your normal daily activities, including work. Michael C. Koester, MD, ATC, et al. The Efficacy of Subacromial Corticosteroid Injection in the Treatment of Rotator Cuff Disease: A Systematic Review. In Journal of American Orthopaedic Surgeons. January 2007. Vol. 15. No. 1. Pp. 3-11.

*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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