Magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance arthrography and ultrasonography for assessing rotator cuff tears in people with shoulder pain for whom surgery is being considered (Review)

Mario Lenza, Rachelle Buchbinder, Yemisi Takwoingi, Renea Johnston, Nigel CA Hanchard, Flavio Faloppa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

191 Citations (Scopus)


Shoulder pain is a very common symptom. Disorders of the rotator cuff tendons due to wear or tear are among the most common causes of shoulder pain and disability. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance arthrography (MRA) and ultrasound (US) are increasingly being used to assess the presence and size of rotator cuff tears to assist in planning surgical treatment. It is not known whether one imaging method is superior to any of the others. Objectives To compare the diagnostic test accuracy of MRI, MRA and US for detecting any rotator cuff tears (i.e. partial or full thickness) in people with suspected rotator cuff tears for whom surgery is being considered. Search methods We searched the Cochrane Register of Diagnostic Test Accuracy Studies, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and LILACS from inception to February 2011. We also searched trial registers, conference proceedings and reference lists of articles to identify additional studies. No language or publication restrictions were applied. Main results We included 20 studies of people with suspected rotator cuff tears (1147 shoulders), of which six evaluated MRI and US (252 shoulders), or MRA and US (127 shoulders) in the same people. Many studies had design flaws, with the potential for bias, thus limiting the reliability of their findings. Overall, the methodological quality of the studies was judged to be low or unclear. For each test, we observed considerable heterogeneity in study results, especially between studies that evaluated US for the detection of full thickness tears and studies that evaluated MRA for the detection of partial thickness tears. The criteria for a positive diagnostic test (index tests and reference standard) varied between studies. Meta-analyses were not possible for studies that assessed MRA for detection of any rotator cuff tears or partial thickness tears. We found no statistically significant differences in sensitivity or specificity between MRI and US for
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD009020
Pages (from-to)1 - 139
Number of pages139
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Cite this