Diagnostic ultrasound of the shoulder--a method for experts only? Results from an orthopedic surgeon with relative inexpensive compared to operative findings

Acta Orthop. 2005 Aug;76(4):503-8. doi: 10.1080/17453670510041484.


Background: Diagnostic ultrasound examination of the shoulder is generally considered to require long experience. We examined the results of an orthopedic surgeon with little experience of ultrasound.

Patients and methods: A relatively inexperienced examiner performed preoperative ultrasound scanning of 79 patients with symptoms from the rotator cuff and/or the long head of the biceps muscle. Tears of the rotator cuff and rupture or dislocation of the long head of the biceps muscle were the positive findings of interest. Results were compared to operative findings.

Results: In 66 of 79 shoulders, ultrasonographic rotator cuff findings were confirmed at surgery (accuracy 84%). 20 of 26 full-thickness tears were diagnosed correctly. 6 of 7 partial-thickness tears were overlooked. Ultrasound was false positive in 1 case. For the long head of the biceps muscle, all 8 cases of dislocation or rupture of the tendon were diagnosed but differentiation between the two conditions was not possible in 2 cases.

Interpretation: Our results may encourage orthopedic surgeons to start using ultrasound as a diagnostic technique for full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff and for pathology in the long head of the biceps muscle.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations
  • Observer Variation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Rotator Cuff / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rupture
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / surgery
  • Shoulder Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Joint / surgery
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging
  • Tendons / physiopathology
  • Tendons / surgery
  • Ultrasonography