Which is more useful the 'full can test' or the 'empty can test,' in detecting the torn supraspinatus tendon?

Eiji Itoi, Tadato Kido, Akihisa Sano, Masakazu Urayama, Kozo Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to determine the clinical usefulness of the full can and empty can tests for determining the presence of a torn supraspinatus tendon. The two tests were performed in 143 shoulders of 136 consecutive patients. In each test, the muscle strength was determined by manual muscle testing, and the presence of pain during the maneuver was recorded. We interpreted the tests as positive when there was 1) pain, 2) muscle weakness, or 3) pain or muscle weakness or both. Shoulders were examined by high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging with 95% accuracy for full-thickness rotator cuff tears. There were 35 shoulders with full- thickness tears of the supraspinatus tendon. The accuracy of the tests was the greatest when muscle weakness was interpreted as indicating a torn supraspinatus tendon in both the full can test (75% accurate) and the empty can test (70% accurate). However, there was no significant difference between the accuracy of the tests when this criterion was used. Pain was observed in 62 shoulders (43%) during the full can test and in 71 shoulders (50%) during the empty can test, but the difference was not statistically significant. Muscle weakness should be interpreted as indicative of supraspinatus tendon tear. Using this indicator, both tests are equivalent in terms of accuracy, but considering pain provocation, the full can test may be more beneficial in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-68
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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