Can a rotator cuff tear get bigger?

Kristofer J. Jones, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Studies suggest that rotator cuff tears can in fact get bigger over time. The tear can get bigger in two ways: a single traumatic event can enlarge the tear, or using your shoulder to do regular activities can gradually enlarge the tear over time. In cases where we choose to not operate and treat the tear with nonoperative measures (ie, therapy, NSAIDs, injections), surveillance and close follow-up is probably indicated. In younger people, I usually recommend an MRI every 12-18 months to monitor the tear. 

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