Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I'm 66-years old and have a lifelong fear of closed-in spaces. I need an MRI of my shoulder, but I'm afraid to get inside the machine. Is there any other way to get the same information without an MRI?


Technology is changing and improving everyday. Rotator cuff sonography (ultrasound) is an imaging study that can be done in the doctor's office. It doesn't require radiation, dyes, or lying inside a machine.

Doctors like it because it's easy to use and portable. A round head (transducer) is moved over the surface of the shoulder. Sound waves are passed through the body and bounce off the bone. This forms a picture of the soft tissue structures in question.

The patient can see what's wrong as the test is being done. The doctor can ask you to move your arm in positions that make the pain better or worse. This helps identify exactly which tissue is torn or damaged.

Ultrasound doesn't work well to show tears of the cartilage in or around the shoulder. Likewise problems with the joint surface aren't clear enough for a diagnosis. MRI may still be needed for these types of injuries.

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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