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Prevalence of and risk factors for asymptomatic rotator cuff tears in postmenopausal women

Abate, Michele PhD; Schiavone, Cosima MD; Di Carlo, Luigi PhD; Salini, Vincenzo PhD

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31829638e3
Original Articles

Objective Rotator cuff tendon tears increase with age, but no study has specifically addressed prevalence changes in women from premenopause to postmenopause. The aims of this study were to evaluate the prevalence of rotator cuff asymptomatic tears in postmenopausal women and to study their relationship with anthropometric and metabolic measures.

Methods Premenopausal and postmenopausal women who were free from shoulder pain/functional impairment were enrolled. Body mass index (BMI), fasting glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were evaluated. Both shoulders were examined by ultrasound imaging. For the purposes of this study, only full-thickness tears (classified as small, large, or massive) were taken into account.

Results The prevalence of full-thickness tears (mainly localized in the supraspinatus tendon of the dominant side) was significantly higher in the postmenopausal group (8.9% vs 3.1%), with small, medium, and large tears in 60%, 20%, and 20% of cases, respectively. In women with tears, intragroup comparison showed significantly higher values for BMI and fasting glucose, and lower levels of HDL cholesterol; no difference was found for triglycerides and total cholesterol in premenopausal and postmenopausal women, respectively. On multiple logistic regression analysis, the probability of detecting a tear in both groups was positively related to high values of BMI and lower levels of HDL cholesterol.

Conclusions The prevalence of asymptomatic full-thickness tears is increased in the postmenopausal period, and there is an association between tears and metabolic disorders. Because asymptomatic tears have a great potential to evolve into symptomatic painful shoulder, a precocious discovery of this pathology may allow the planning of preventive and therapeutic measures.

From the Department of Medicine and Science of Aging, University G. d’Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara, Chieti Scalo, Italy.

Received July 2, 2012; revised and accepted March 25, 2013.

This work has not been published before and is not under consideration for publication anywhere else. Its publication has been approved by all authors and by responsible authorities at the institute where the work was carried out.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Michele Abate, PhD, Department of Medicine and Science of Aging, University G. d’ Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara, Via dei Vestini 31, 66013 Chieti Scalo (CH), Italy. E-mail:

© 2014 by The North American Menopause Society.