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Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery

Bilateral magnetic resonance imaging findings in individuals with unilateral shoulder pain

      Background

      Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose structural abnormalities in the shoulder. However, subsequent findings may not be the source of symptoms. The aim of this study was to determine comparative MRI findings across both shoulders of individuals with unilateral shoulder symptoms.

      Materials and methods

      We prospectively evaluated 123 individuals from the community who had self-reported unilateral shoulder pain with no signs of adhesive capsulitis, no substantial range-of-motion deficit, no history of upper-limb fractures, no repeated shoulder dislocations, and no neck-related pain. Images in the coronal, sagittal, and axial planes with T1, T2, and proton density sequences were generated and independently and randomly interpreted by 2 examiners: a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic shoulder surgeon and a musculoskeletal radiologist. Absolute and relative frequencies for each MRI finding were calculated and compared between symptomatic and asymptomatic shoulders. Agreement between the shoulder surgeon and the radiologist was also determined.

      Results

      Abnormal MRI findings were highly prevalent in both shoulders. Only the frequencies of full-thickness tears in the supraspinatus tendon and glenohumeral osteoarthritis were higher (approximately 10%) in the symptomatic shoulder according to the surgeon's findings. Agreement between the musculoskeletal radiologist and shoulder surgeon ranged from slight to moderate (0.00-0.51).

      Conclusion

      Most abnormal MRI findings were not different in frequency between symptomatic and asymptomatic shoulders. Clinicians should be aware of the common anatomic findings on MRI when considering diagnostic and treatment planning.

      Level of evidence

      Keywords

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