Injury of the Achilles tendon: diagnosis with sonography

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1990 Nov;155(5):1031-6. doi: 10.2214/ajr.155.5.2120931.


We determined the diagnostic accuracy of sonography for the assessment of injury to the Achilles tendon. After anatomic investigations in three human cadavers, we performed a clinical study in 24 healthy volunteers and 73 symptomatic patients referred for achillodynia or signs of heel thickening or both in whom a clinical diagnosis of acute total rupture was excluded. High-resolution real-time sonography was performed and the results were compared with final clinical diagnoses (55 patients) and surgical findings (18 patients). Fifty-two of the patients had been involved in various sporting activities (long-distance runners, jumpers, and basketball players), three patients had familial hypercholesterolemia, five patients had systemic inflammatory disease, and 13 patients had no known underlying cause. Anatomic investigation demonstrated accurate assessment of tendon structure and thickness. Sonograms were abnormal in 53 patients (sensitivity, 0.72; specificity, 0.83), and the extent of structural disorders of the tendon could be assessed properly. Abnormalities occurred in the form of tendon swelling (45%), abnormal tendon structure (42%), rupture (15%), and peritendinous lesions (47%). No changes were detected in low-grade disease of short duration, which suggests symptoms caused by functional disorders. Sonography is valuable in the diagnosis of various lesions of the Achilles tendon and its surrounding tissue. Furthermore, it can be used to estimate the degree of tendon abnormality and to differentiate between functional and morphologic conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / diagnostic imaging*
  • Achilles Tendon / injuries*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bursitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rupture / diagnostic imaging
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendinopathy / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography