Prevalence of rotator cuff tendon tears and symptoms in a Chingford general population cohort, and the resultant impact on UK health services: a cross-sectional observational study.
Hinsley H., Ganderton C., Arden NK., Carr AJ.
OBJECTIVES: To define the population prevalence of rotator cuff tears and test their association with pain and function loss; determine if severity symptom correlates with tear stage severity, and quantify the impact of symptomatic rotator cuff tears on primary healthcare services in a general population cohort of women. DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals were part of the Chingford 1000 Women cohort, a 20-year-old longitudinal population study comprising 1003 women aged between 64 and 87, and representative of the population of the UK. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rotator cuff pathology prevalence on ultrasound, shoulder symptoms using the Oxford Shoulder Score and resultant number of general practitioner (GP) consultations. RESULTS: The population prevalence of full-thickness tears was 22.2%, which increased with age (p=0.004) and whether it was the dominant arm (Relative Risk 1.64, OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.33, p=0.021).Although 48.4% of full-thickness tears were asymptomatic, there was an association between rotator cuff tears and patient-reported symptoms. Individuals with at least one full-thickness tear were 1.97 times more likely than those with bilateral normal tendons (OR 3.53, 95% CI 2.00 to 5.61, p<0.001) to have symptoms. Severity of symptoms was not related to the severity of the pathology until tears are >2.5 cm (p=0.009).In the cohort, 8.9% had seen their GP with shoulder pain and a full-thickness rotator cuff tear, 18.8% with shoulder pain and an abnormality and 29.3% with shoulder pain. CONCLUSION: Rotator cuff tears are common, and primary care services are heavily impacted. As 50% of tears remain asymptomatic, future research may investigate the cause of pain and whether different treatment modalities, aside from addressing the pathology, need further investigation.