Clinical indications for musculoskeletal ultrasound: a Delphi-based consensus paper of the European Society of Musculoskeletal Radiology

Eur Radiol. 2012 May;22(5):1140-8. doi: 10.1007/s00330-011-2356-3. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objective: To develop clinical guidelines for musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSKUS) referral in Europe.

Methods: Sixteen musculoskeletal radiologists from seven European countries participated in a consensus-based interactive process (Delphi method) using consecutive questionnaires and consensus procedure meetings at several European radiology meetings. The evaluation of musculoskeletal diseases was established by literature reviews, followed by consensus on clinical utility in three consensus meetings. This involved a thorough, transparent, iterative approach which including interview, questionnaire, Delphi and standard setting methodologies. European MSK radiologists with a special interest in MSKUS formed two different expert groups who worked on reaching a consensus in the first two meetings. The third meeting resolved questions that did not achieve a consensus level of 67% using the first two questionnaires.

Results: On expert consensus, the use of MSKUS is indicated to detect joint synovitis, fluid and septic effusion for potential aspiration, and poorly indicated to detect loose bodies. Recommendations for most appropriate use of musculoskeletal ultrasound are reported in six areas relevant to musculoskeletal ultrasound: hand/wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle/foot.

Conclusion: A comprehensive evidence-based, expert consensus-defined educational framework on clinical ultrsound is presented. This should facilitate referrals for this important imaging technique throughout Europe.

Key points: Musculoskeletal ultrasound is indicated for detecting joint synovitis, effusions and fluid collections. • Musculoskeletal ultrasound is poor at detecting loose bodies. • Musculoskeletal ultrasound is relevant for most joints.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Rheumatology / standards*
  • Ultrasonography / standards*