What is the role of plain radiography in the workup of rotator cuff injuries?

Updated: Oct 25, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Craig C Young, MD  more...
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Plain radiography of the shoulder can be very helpful in the diagnosis of rotator cuff disease. Standard views should include a true anteroposterior (AP) view (in the plane of the scapula), a supraspinatus outlet view, and an axillary view.

The true AP view helps determine acromiohumeral distance, which is narrowed in association with rotator cuff tears. This view also identifies sclerosis and spurring of the acromion and reactive changes at the rotator cuff insertion site on the greater tuberosity, including sclerosis and cyst formation, all of which are associated with chronic tears.

The outlet view (a lateral radiograph in the scapular plane with the beam tilted 10° caudad) helps identify acromion shape and slope.

The axillary view helps identify the humeral head position in relation to the glenoid.

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