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Orthop J Sports Med. 2016 Jan 5;4(1):2325967115623212. doi: 10.1177/2325967115623212. eCollection 2016 Jan.

High Prevalence of Superior Labral Tears Diagnosed by MRI in Middle-Aged Patients With Asymptomatic Shoulders.

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Orlando Orthopaedic Center, Orlando, Florida, USA.
Twin Cities Orthopedics, Coon Rapids, Minnesota, USA.
Center for Diagnostic Imaging, Winter Park, Florida, USA.



The incidence of superior labral surgery has increased in the past decade in the United States, and a contributing factor could be an increased rate of superior labral tears diagnosed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Prior MRI studies of the asymptomatic shoulder have focused on rotator cuff pathology or pathology in a narrow and specific group of athletes. Labral abnormalities have not previously been thoroughly evaluated in asymptomatic middle-aged individuals.


To evaluate the prevalence of superior labral tears diagnosed by MRI in the asymptomatic shoulders of middle-aged people (age range, 45-60 years).


Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.


A total of 53 asymptomatic adults (age range, 45-60 years) with no history of surgery or injury to either shoulder were included in the study. Physical examinations of all shoulders were performed. Noncontrast MRI (1.5 T) was performed in 1 randomly determined shoulder of each subject. Two fellowship-trained musculoskeletal radiologists who were blinded to the purpose of the study and ages of the subjects evaluated each MRI.


Radiologists interpreted the MRIs as consistent with superior labral tears in 55% and 72% of the cohort. Comparison of the radiological evaluations of the superior labra were moderate (κ = 0.410, P = .033). There were no differences in readings for superior labral tear regarding age (P = .87), sex (P = .41), whether the dominant shoulder underwent MRI (P = .99), whether the subject worked a physical job (P = .08), or whether the subject participated in overhead sports for a period of 1 year (P = .62).


Superior labral tears are diagnosed with high frequency using MRI in 45- to 60-year-old individuals with asymptomatic shoulders. These shoulder MRI findings in middle-aged populations emphasize the need for supporting clinical judgment when making treatment decisions for this patient population.


To avoid overtreatment, physicians should realize that superior labral tears diagnosed by MRI in individuals between the ages of 45 and 60 years may be normal age-related findings.


MRI labral tear; SLAP lesion; asymptomatic shoulder; degenerative labral tear; middle-aged shoulders; shoulder MRI; superior labral tear

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