The diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the shoulder begins with a complete history of the problem, followed by a physical examination of the shoulder. Your doctor will ask you about old injuries of the shoulder. He will ask about any other medical conditions and surgical conditions. A physical examination will be performed to try and determine how much strength and motion you have in the shoulder. Your doctor may look at other joints for other signs of systemic arthritis. X-rays of the shoulder will be necessary to make the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. X-rays will show the degree of changes in the bones of the shoulder and give some idea as to how much wear and tear is present. If your doctor is concerned that you also have a rotator cuff tendon tear, he may also suggest either an arthrogram or a MRI scan of the shoulder.
An arthrogram is a test where a special dye is injected into the shoulder joint. X-rays are taken to see if the dye leaks out of the shoulder joint. If it does, then a tear of the rotator cuff tendon is present. The MRI scan can also be used to actually look at the rotator cuff tendons and determine whether or not they are torn. An MRI scan is a special radiological test where magnetic waves are used to create pictures that look like slices of the shoulder. The MRI scan shows more than the bones of the shoulder. It can show the tendons as well, and whether there has been a tear in those tendons. The MRI scan is painless, and requires no needles or dye to be injected.