Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


My doctor wants to use ultrasound to look for tears in the rotator cuff around the shoulder. Can they see if there's any arthritis in there too?


Ultrasound can show many aspects of the soft tissues around the shoulder. It will show if there's any fluid within the tendons, the size and shape of bursae, and any tears in the tendons. By moving the arm during the test, the doctor can see if a tendon is partially or fully torn.

The image also shows if a torn tendon has drawn back into the muscle belly, called retraction. Knowing this helps the doctor plan treatment. The condition of the joint isn't as clear. Ultrasound doesn't show tears in the joint cartilage or the rim around the shoulder joint. MRI may be needed to see this kind of damage. X-ray may be better for seeing arthritic changes in the joint.

R. Sean Churchill, MD, et al. Rotator Cuff Ultrasonography: Diagnostic Capabilities. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. January/February 2004. Vol. 12. No. 1. Pp. 6-11.

*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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