Full-thickness rotator cuff tear prevalence and correlation with function and co-morbidities in patients sixty-five years and older

Authors: Edward V. Fehringer, Junfeng Sun, Lucas S. VanOeveren, Brenda K. Keller, Frederick A. Matsen

References: Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery. 17(6):881-5. Nov 2008.

The purpose of this study was to determine full-thickness rotator cuff tear prevalence in patients 65 and older and to correlate tears with comfort, function, and co-morbidities. Two-hundred shoulders without prior surgery were evaluated with a Simple Shoulder Test, a Constant Score, and ultrasound. Full thickness tear prevalence was 22%. Adjusting for age and gender, those with tears had lower scores than those without (P < .001 for each). Adjusting for many potential confounders, with a 10-year age increase, the odds of a tear increased 2.69-fold (P = .005). For those with tears, scores were no different for those who had seen a physician for their shoulder compared to those who had not. Full-thickness cuff tear prevalence was 22% in those 65 and older. Tear prevalence increased with increasing age. Shoulder scores were poorer for those with tears.


  • Lower tear rate than traditionally quoted studies
  • Patient sample was taken from hip and knee clinics, not general population ( possible bias)
  • Shoulder scores worse for those with tears, whether symptomatic or not.

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