Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I just read the doctor's report on my shoulder surgery. It says I had a "massive" rotator cuff tear. It didn't seem that bad to me. What does "massive" mean?


Cuff tear size is graded as small, medium, or large based on the diameter of the tear. Small is less than one centimeter. Medium refers to a tear that's one to three centimeters wide. Large means the tear is three to five centimeters.

The term massive is reserved for tears larger than five centimeters. That's about an inch and a quarter. It may not seem like much but in the area of the shoulder, a massive tear is significant.

Fortunately, today's surgery seems to be successful regardless of tear size. With large or massive tears, there can be some extra complications. The shape of the tear makes a difference. Large or massive U-shaped tears require extra steps to repair.

Sometimes a piece of bone or cartilage breaks off and remains attached to the end of the tendon. Special surgery may be needed to repair all the damage present.

Eduard Buess, M.D., et al. Open Versus Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair: A Comparative View of 96 Cases. In Arthroscopy. May 2005. Vol. 21. No. 5. Pp. 597-604.

*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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