High-resolution sonography of the rib: can fracture and metastasis be differentiated?

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2005 Mar;184(3):969-74. doi: 10.2214/ajr.184.3.01840969.


Objective: Our aim was to evaluate whether high-resolution sonography can provide additional information concerning rib lesions compared with radiography or bone scintigraphy.

Materials and methods: Fifty-eight patients with high-uptake rib lesions seen on bone scintigraphy were selected. Radiography and rib high-resolution sonography were performed on these patients. High-resolution sonography was performed using a linear 5-12 MHz transducer. By means of clinical history, histopathologic examination, and follow-up observation, these patients were classified into rib fracture (n = 37), rib metastasis (n = 18), or unknown (n = 3) groups. High-resolution sonography images of the 55 proven cases were reviewed for the presence of five representative findings: cortical disruption, callus formation, cortical deformity, mass, or bone destruction. The frequencies of these findings were compared between the groups with fracture and metastasis.

Results: Rib lesions were matched by bone scintigraphy and high-resolution sonography in 53 (96%) of 55 patients and by bone scintigraphy and plain radiography in 23 (42%) of 55 patients. High-resolution sonography revealed 17 (94%) of 18 patients with metastasis and 36 (97%) of 37 patients with rib fractures. Metastatic lesions were seen as mass formation (n = 13) and irregular bone destruction (n = 7) on high-resolution sonography. Fracture was seen as cortical disruption with or without hematoma (n = 17), callus formation (n = 9), or cortical deformity, such as angling or stepping (n = 12).

Conclusion: High-resolution sonography of the ribs is a useful method of characterizing rib lesions in patients who have hot-uptake lesions on bone scintigraphy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Rib Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ribs / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography