Ultrasound of nerve and muscle

Clin Neurophysiol. 2004 Mar;115(3):495-507. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2003.10.022.


Over the last two decades, ultrasound has developed into a useful technology for the evaluation of diseases of nerve and muscle. Since it is currently not used at by the majority of clinicians involved in diagnosis or care of patients with neuromuscular disorders, this review briefly describes the technical aspects of ultrasound and its physical principles. It relates normal muscle anatomy and movement to ultrasound images in the axial and sagittal planes and follows with a discussion of ultrasound findings in chronic muscle disease. These include evident atrophy and the loss of the hypoechoic architecture of normal muscle tissue. It highlights evolving uses of the technique to measure other pathologic changes in disease including altered muscle dynamics. With high-resolution instruments nerve imaging has now become standard, and the relationships of median nerve anatomy and observations of static and dynamic images from ultrasound are reviewed. Changes seen in carpal tunnel syndrome include significant increases in the cross-sectional area of the nerve just proximal to the site of compression, loss of hyperechoic intensities within nerve, and reduced mobility. Preliminary use of the technique for the study of other nerves is reviewed as well. Ultrasound is an ideal tool for the clinical and research investigation of normal and diseased nerve and muscle complementary to existing diagnostic techniques. As the technology continues to evolve, it will likely assume a more significant role in these areas as those most able to exploit its potential, clinical neurophysiologists and neuromuscular clinicians, incorporate its use at the bedside.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Median Nerve / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Tissue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Peripheral Nerves / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography