Risk Factors for Failure of Nonoperative Treatment of Posterior Shoulder Labral Tears on Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Daniel L. Christensen, Michael J. Elsenbeck, Jared A. Wolfe, Walter N. Nickel, William Roach, Robert A. Waltz, Jonathan F. Dickens, Lance E. LeClere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction There are no reports in the literature describing risk factors for failure of nonoperative treatment of patients with posterior labral tears on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The purpose of this study is to identify risk factors for failure of nonoperative treatment in patients with an isolated posterior glenoid labral tear identified on MRI only. Patients with posterior labral tears on MRI who fail to improve with nonoperative treatment likely share a constellation of clinical history, physical exam, and radiographic findings. Methods One hundred and fifty-nine active duty military service members under the age of 40 with a posterior labral tear seen on MRI and who were clinically evaluated by a musculoskeletal trained physician were identified. We retrospectively evaluated their records ensuring a minimum of 2 years follow-up after MRI to identify surgical intervention for the posterior labral tear during this time period. Patients were stratified into two groups, those treated with any combination of nonoperative modalities and those treated with posterior labral repair surgery during the 2 years after the MRI. The electronic medical records were reviewed for clinical presentation and physical exam results. We measured multiple radiographic parameters, including glenoid version, size of the tear, and bone loss on MRI. Qualitative and quantitative data were compared between groups using Fisher’s exact test and Student’s t-test, respectively. This study was conducted under institutional review board approval. Results Of the 157 patients’ shoulders in our study, 52% (n = 82) of patients with posterior labral tears underwent nonoperative treatment while 48% (n = 75) underwent surgery. The significant risk factors associated with surgery were a history of a specific injury, primary presenting complaint of instability, patient reported history of subluxation, inability to trust their shoulder with overhead activity, decreased strength with weight lifting, positive posterior load/shift exam, positive anterior apprehension, increased osseous glenoid retroversion, increased humeral head subluxation ratio, and anterior labral height (P < 0.05). Patients with a chief complaint of pain were much more likely to succeed with nonoperative treatment while those with instability underwent surgery more often. Ten (12.5%) of the surgical procedures included an anterior and posterior labral repair/stabilization procedure. Conclusion Patients with an MRI confirmed posterior labral tear, which present with subjective complaints and physical exam maneuvers consistent with instability, appear less likely to be treated nonoperatively. Increased glenoid retroversion and posterior humeral head subluxation may also predispose patients toward surgical treatment. Additionally, posterior labral tears may extend into the anterior labrum more frequently than is recognized on MRI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1556-E1561
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


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