Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 35, Issue 12, pp 909–914 | Cite as

Humeral head cysts and rotator cuff tears: an MR arthrographic study

  • Martin WilliamsEmail author
  • Robert G. W. Lambert
  • Gian S. Jhangri
  • Michael Grace
  • Jay Zelaso
  • Ben Wong
  • Sukhvinder S. Dhillon
Scientific Article



Humeral tuberosity cysts are a common finding, with previous reports suggesting they are related to rotator cuff tear or aging. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of cysts in the tuberosities of the humeral head and their relationship with rotator cuff tear and age.

Design and patients

Shoulder MR arthrograms were reviewed in 120 consecutive patients—83 males (mean age 38.0, range 19–59 years) and 37 females (mean age 41.2, range 15–59 years). Patients were referred for investigation of a variety of conditions, and instability was suspected in only a minority of cases. MR was performed before and after direct arthrography with 0.01% solution of gadolinium. Cysts were defined as well-demarcated circular/ovoid foci in two planes that demonstrated high signal on pre-arthrographic T2W sequences. Location, size and numbers of cysts and post-arthrographic enhancement were documented, along with the location of rotator cuff tears, if present.


Cysts in the tuberosities of the humerus were identified in 84 patients (70%), and were seen seven times more frequently in the posterior aspect of the greater tuberosity than anteriorly. Most cysts (94%) demonstrated communication with the joint post-arthrogram. Rotator cuff tears were present in 36 patients, and 79% of all tears occurred in supraspinatus tendon. There was no significant difference in the occurrence of cysts between patients older or younger than age 40 or between genders, but rotator cuff tears were seen significantly more often in the older age group (p<0.01). Tuberosity cysts and rotator cuff tears did not appear to be related (p=0.55). However, whilst this lack of association was quite obvious posteriorly (p=0.84), the trend in the anterior aspect of the greater tuberosity is not as clear (p=0.14).


Humeral cysts are most often located in the posterior aspect of the greater tuberosity, communicate with the joint space and, in this location, are not related to aging or rotator cuff tear.


Magnetic resonance imaging Arthrography Cyst Humeral head Rotator cuff 


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Copyright information

© ISS 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Williams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert G. W. Lambert
    • 2
  • Gian S. Jhangri
    • 2
  • Michael Grace
    • 2
  • Jay Zelaso
    • 2
  • Ben Wong
    • 2
  • Sukhvinder S. Dhillon
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of RadiologySouthmead HospitalWestbury-on-Trym, BristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Radiology and Diagnostic ImagingUniversity of Alberta HospitalEdmontonCanada

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