Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Rotator Cuff Tear Anatomy

To better understand rotator cuff tear, it helps to understand the anatomy of the shoulder joint.

The rotator cuff is part of the shoulder joint. This joint allows motion between two major bones: the humerus and the scapula. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A depression off the scapula, known as the glenoid, provides the socket for the head of the humerus. Ligaments and muscles stabilize the joint during use.

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that surround the top and back of the shoulder. These tendons hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid.

The rotator cuff tendon is composed of:

  • Supraspinatus tendon
  • Infraspinatus tendon
  • Teres minor tendon
  • Subscapularis tendon

These four muscles normally act to raise the arm up and away from the body. This motion is called abduction.

Anatomy examples:
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the front
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the back
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the top, showing rotator cuff
  • Muscles of the shoulder from the front
  • Muscles of the shoulder from the back
  • The acromioclavicular joint

Last Updated: Jul 8, 2009 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Rotator Cuff Tear References
  1. Baker CL, Whaley AL, Baker M. Arthroscopic rotator cuff tear repair. J Surg Orthop Adv. 2003 Winter;12(4):175-90. [15008280]
  2. Charousset C, Bellaiche L, Duranthon LD, Grimberg J. Accuracy of CT arthrography in the assessment of tears of the rotator cuff. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2005 Jun;87(6):824-8. [15911667]
  3. Kim SH, Ha KI, Park JH, Kang JS, Oh SK, Oh I. Arthroscopic versus mini-open salvage repair of the rotator cuff tear: outcome analysis at 2 to 6 years' follow-up. Arthroscopy. 2003 Sep;19(7):746-54. [12966383]
  4. Laudicina L, D'Ambrosia R. Management of irreparable rotator cuff tears and glenohumeral arthritis. Orthopedics. 2005 Apr;28(4):382-8. [15887585]
  5. McCabe RA, Nicholas SJ, Montgomery KD, Finneran JJ, McHugh MP. The effect of rotator cuff tear size on shoulder strength and range of motion. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005 Mar;35(3):130-5. [15839306]
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