Background: Hypoxia and decreased blood supply have been proposed as risks for tendon rupture. Visualization of the vascularity of intact and torn rotator cuffs would be useful for improving treatments for rotator cuff tear.
Purpose: To assess vascularity inside a tendon or an adjacent rotator cuff insertion point in patients differing in age and extent of damage to the tendon.
Study Design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: Ten volunteers (all men) and 15 patients (10 men, 5 women) consented to participate in the study. Contrast agent for enhanced ultrasound was injected intravenously. Enhanced ultrasound images of the torn cuff and the contralateral shoulder were recorded for 1 minute. Four small regions of interest, the articular and bursal sides of the tendon and the medial and lateral sides of the bursa, were studied in all shoulders.
Results: There was a significant decrease in blood flow in the intratendinous region in elderly subjects compared with young subjects, but age had no effect on blood flow in bursal tissue. Blood flow in ruptured rotator cuffs did not differ from that in intact rotator cuffs. The intraclass correlation coefficient for intraobserver reproducibility was 0.82 (95% confidence interval: 0.77-0.86).
Conclusions: The findings of this investigation were the hypovascular pattern in intratendinous tissue compared with the subacromial bursa, the age-related decrease in intratendinous vascularity, and the hypovascular pattern in the tendon, regardless of rupture of the tendon. Clarification of vascular patterns inside or around the torn ends of a rotator cuff will assist in the development of successful treatments for torn rotator cuffs.