Rotator Cuff Tear

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is formed by 4 muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis that come together to cover the anterior and superior aspect of the humerus.  These muscles and their tendon attachments on the humerus are responsible for being able to lift/elevate and rotate the arm.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Tears in the rotator cuff typically occur in the tendon which is the attachment from the muscle to the bone. The mostly commonly torn of the 4 tendons is the supraspinatus which is the top/anterior tendon. Tears can be acute due to traumatic injury or chronic due to repetitive activities or impingement and pressure on the tendon.  Full thickness tears are uncommon in patients under the age of 40. Approximately 25% of people over 60 have a rotator cuff tear, and this increases to 50% by age 70.

Arthroscopic image of a rotator cuff tear
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Arthroscopic image of a rotator cuff repair
Arthroscopic image of suture in place for a rotator cuff repair

Want to see a video of an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair?

What are symptoms?

  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Catching

How it is diagnosed?

Rotator cuff tears are diagnosed by examination and typically require an MRI after conservative treatment has failed if contemplating surgery to determine the extent of the tear and any additional pathology within the shoulder. 

MRI image of a rotator cuff tear