Nerve density: a new parameter to evaluate peripheral nerve pathology on ultrasound. Preliminary study

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2010 Oct;36(10):1588-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2010.07.009.


The possibility to realize a quantitative evaluation of nerve density on ultrasound is clinically important to enhance the evaluation of peripheral nerve disorders. We developed software that quantifies the ratio between the hypoechoic and hyperechoic areas of peripheral nerves on ultrasound. Nerve density was defined as (hypoechoic pixels)/(total pixels) and the purpose of our study was to asses if nerve density can be used to differentiate pathologic conditions affecting peripheral nerves. Ultrasound images of peripheral nerves were obtained with a high-frequency probe (17-5 MHz, 288 elements). Sixty-five different patients and (n = 65) controls (age range, 35-81 years; mean 55 years) were prospectively evaluated. Thirty-five patients had carpal tunnel syndrome and 30 patients had neurofibromas. Three radiologists performed a semiautomated evaluation with intra and interobserver agreement. A complete automatic evaluation was performed with no need of intra and interobserver evaluation. With the semiautomated evaluation, mean intraobserver agreement was good (K = 0.85). Interobserver agreements was good as well (reader 1 vs reader 2: k = 0.72; reader 2 vs reader 3: k = 0.80; reader 3 vs reader 1: k = 0.72). Differences among value of nerve density in normal nerves, CTS and neurofibromas were statistically significant (p < 0.0001). There were no statistically significant differences between the results obtained using the automatic or the semiautomatic method. Nerve density is capable of discriminating between normal and pathologic nerves of patients affected by carpal tunnel syndrome or neurofibromas. Moreover, nerve density measure is useful to discriminate between patients with mild and severe CTS.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibroma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Observer Variation
  • Peripheral Nerves / diagnostic imaging
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult