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Background: Approximately 20-60% of rotator cuff repairs fail with higher failure rates in patients with larger or more chronic tears. Although MRI provides an objective estimate of tear size, it can only provide qualitative descriptions of tear chronicity. By contrast, ultrasound shear wave elastography (SWE) may assess tear chronicity by estimating tissue mechanical properties (ie, shear modulus). Furthermore, SWE imaging does not share many of the challenges associated with MRI (eg, high cost, risk of claustrophobia). Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the extent to which estimated supraspinatus shear modulus is associated with conventional MRI-based measures of rotator cuff tear size and chronicity.

Methods: Shear modulus was estimated using ultrasound SWE in two regions of the supraspinatus (intramuscular tendon, muscle belly) under two contractile conditions (passive, active) in 22 participants with full-thickness rotator cuff tears. The extent to which estimated supraspinatus shear modulus is associated with conventional MRI measures of tear size and chronicity was assessed using correlation coefficients and Kruskal-Wallis tests, as appropriate.

Results: Estimated shear modulus was not significantly associated with anterior/posterior tear size (P > .09), tear retraction (P > .20), occupation ratio (P > .11), or fatty infiltration (P > .30) under any testing condition.

Discussion: Although ultrasound SWE measurements have been shown to be altered in the presence of various tendinopathies, the findings of this study suggest the utility of ultrasound SWE in this population (ie, patients with a small to medium supraspinatus rotator cuff tear) before surgical rotator cuff repair remains unclear.

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