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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2003 Mar;180(3):633-9.

Association of biceps tendon tears with rotator cuff abnormalities: degree of correlation with tears of the anterior and superior portions of the rotator cuff.

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Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Rd., Bethesda, MD 20814-4799, USA.



This study was performed to examine the relationship and association of abnormalities seen in the long head of the biceps brachii tendon to abnormal findings in the rotator cuff.


One hundred eleven patients underwent MR imaging for shoulder pain followed by arthroscopic or open shoulder surgery from January 1997 to December 2000. Patients were identified by a retrospective search, and all consecutive patients having undergone both MR imaging and surgery were included in the patient cohort. Official MR imaging interpretations were compared with operative reports, and all findings were recorded.


Twenty-three patients were identified with partial- or full-thickness tears of the long head of the biceps tendon. The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of unenhanced MR imaging of the shoulder for detecting these bicipital tears were 52%, 86%, and 79%, respectively. When a tear was present in the biceps tendon, the prevalence of supraspinatous, infraspinatus, and subscapularis tendon tears was 96.2%, 34.6%, and 47.1%, respectively. Patients with biceps tendon tears were significantly more likely to also have subscapularis tendon tears (p < 0.0001) and supraspinatous tendon tears (p < 0.008) than those patients who did not have biceps tendon tears. No significant relationship was found between the presence or absence of a biceps tendon tear and the presence or absence of a infraspinatus or teres minor tendon tear (p = 0.17).


Tears of the long head of the biceps tendon have a statistically significant association with tears of the anterior and superior rotator cuff and are highly correlated with tears of the supraspinatous and subscapularis tendons. When tears of these tendons are detected, specific attention directed toward the long biceps tendon is warranted to characterize the status of this structure that provides additional stability to the shoulder joint.

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