Do we really need to order magnetic resonance imaging? Shoulder surgeon ultrasound practice patterns and beliefs

Kevin K. Kruse, Matthew F. Dilisio, William L. Wang, Christopher C. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Despite significant benefits, many orthopedic surgeons are hesitant to incorporate diagnostic ultrasound into their practice. This may be because of a lack of comfort, knowledge, and/or training. The purpose of this study was to analyze practice patterns regarding the use of shoulder ultrasound by orthopedic surgeons to diagnose rotator cuff tears. Materials and methods: We conducted a survey of the members of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) regarding their use of ultrasound. A systematic review of the literature on the use of ultrasound in the shoulder by orthopedic surgeons was also performed. Results: Of the members of ASES responding to the survey, 55% are using ultrasound for diagnostic purposes in the shoulder. The leading reason for not using ultrasound as the sole imaging modality prior to performing rotator cuff repair was lack of confidence in the ability to determine the reparability of the tear (83%). Our systematic review showed that for an orthopedic surgeon diagnosing a full-thickness rotator cuff tear, the mean sensitivity was 92% and mean specificity was 89%. Conclusions: Many ASES surgeons are not using ultrasound in the shoulder despite its many potential benefits over magnetic resonance imaging. This is because of a lack of confidence in the ability to quantify fatty infiltration, muscle atrophy, and the level of retraction medial to the acromion. Our systematic review showed that orthopedic surgeons can be accurate in the diagnosis of full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Future research should focus on defining parameters of shoulder ultrasound associated with rotator cuff tendon reparability. Educating surgeons on ultrasound technique, cost, and evidence may be a promising strategy to enhance the value in musculoskeletal care delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
JournalJSES Open Access
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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