High prevalence of rotator cuff tears in a population who never sought for shoulder problems: a clinical, ultrasonographic and radiographic screening study

  • Shwan Khoschnau
  • Jugoslav Milosavjevic
  • Bo Sahlstedt
  • Rebecca Rylance
  • Hans Rahme
  • Bakir KadumEmail author



This study was designed to investigate the prevalence of rotator cuff tears in a population who had never sought for symptoms from their shoulders. The aim was to see whether there is a correlation between dysfunction and the presence of cuff tears seen with ultrasonography or radiology.

Materials and methods

Clinical assessment with constant score, ultrasound and radiographic examination was done on 106 voluntary subjects (212 shoulders). There were 52 men and 54 women with a median age of 66 years. The correlations between complaints, cuff tears, constant score, ultrasound and radiological findings were calculated.


Of 106 subjects, 64 (60%) had shoulder problems. The prevalence of full-thickness cuff tears was 30% (21% of all the 212 shoulders). 61% of the shoulders with full-thickness tears had symptoms compared to 33% of the shoulders without tears. The constant score was lower in shoulders with full-thickness tears. Partial tears or acromioclavicular degeneration had no impact on shoulder complaints or constant score. The subacromial index was lower for shoulders with full-thickness tears. Patients with primary osteoarthritis had a lower acromion index than patients with full-thickness tears.


The prevalence of shoulder complaints and/or cuff tears was high in this population, which had never sought medical care for shoulder problems. Only full-thickness tears had an impact on shoulder function and constant score. Partial-thickness tears and degenerative changes in the acromioclavicular joint may be considered as age-related changes. The subacromial index can be used as a predictor for full-thickness cuff tears.

Level of evidence

Level III, cross-sectional study, prevalence study.


Rotator cuff Rotator cuff tear Rotator cuff surgery Shoulder radiography Shoulder ultrasound Prevalence of rotator cuff tear 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest related to this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ElisabethsjukhusetUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Radiology DepartmentVästerås Central HospitalVästeråsSweden
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedics, The Southern Sweden Musculoskeletal Research Center (MORSE)University HospitalLundSweden
  4. 4.Department of Clinical and Experimental MedicineLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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