We know that rotator cuff tears commonly affect one shoulder, especially in patients who are over age 55. However, there is a group of patients that not only tear one shoulder, but end up tearing their contralateral shoulder as well. There was a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in May, 2015, that specifically looked at patients undergoing rotator cuff repairs and tears on the contralateral side, that is the other shoulder.
The study was completed through the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul, Korea. The first author was Dr. Kyung-Han Ro. Looking at 140 patients who underwent a rotator cuff repair, researchers found that 38.6 percent of them had a rotator cuff tear on the contralateral shoulder.
Understanding Different Sizes of Rotator Cuff Tears
Dr. Ro divided the patients into three groups: 1) patients that had a small rotator cuff tear, 2) patients who had a medium sized rotator cuff tear, and 3) those with a large size rotator cuff tear. Researchers compared each of the patient groups to determine the chance of suffering a cuff tear on the contralateral shoulder.
Researchers found that the patients that had a bigger rotator cuff tear, had a higher incidence of tears involving their contralateral shoulder. The patients that had small tears had a lesser chance of having a tear on the contralateral shoulder compared to the group that had large or massive rotator cuff tears. The conclusion of the study showed that the prevalence of rotator cuff tears of the contralateral shoulder tends to be higher in patients who are more symptomatic and have a larger rotator cuff tear on one side.
So, in conclusion, if you have a large cuff tear on one shoulder, you have about a 38 percent chance of having a rotator cuff tear on the contralateral side. If you have a small rotator cuff tear on one shoulder, you have a 4 percent chance of having a small full thickness rotator cuff tear on the contralateral shoulder. And you have a 27 percent chance of having a partial thickness rotator cuff tear on the contralateral shoulder.
This study proves how important it is for individuals to prevent rotator cuff injuries, as they often lead to more issues. If you are experiencing any type of shoulder pain or injury that is not going away, get help before your symptoms worsen or you experience a tear. Call 502-212-2663 to schedule an appointment with Louisville orthopedic Dr. Stacie Grossfeld today.