A guide for standardized interpretation of lumbar multifidus ultrasonography; an observational study

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 Jul 16;23(1):680. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-05590-5.


Background: Inconsistent descriptions of Lumbar multifidus (LM) morphology were previously identified, especially in research applying ultrasonography (US), hampering its clinical applicability with regard to diagnosis and therapy. The aim of this study is to determine the LM-sonoanatomy by comparing high-resolution reconstructions from a 3-D digital spine compared to standard LM-ultrasonography.

Methods: An observational study was carried out. From three deeply frozen human tissue blocks of the lumbosacral spine, a large series of consecutive photographs at 78 μm interval were acquired and reformatted into 3-D blocks. This enabled the reconstruction of (semi-)oblique cross-sections that could match US-images obtained from a healthy volunteer. Transverse and oblique short-axis views were compared from the most caudal insertion of LM to L1.

Results: Based on the anatomical reconstructions, we could distinguish the LM from the adjacent erector spinae (ES) in the standard US imaging of the lower spine. At the lumbosacral junction, LM is the only dorsal muscle facing the surface. From L5 upwards, the ES progresses from lateral to medial. A clear distinction between deep and superficial LM could not be discerned. We were only able to identify five separate bands between every lumbar spinous processes and the dorsal part of the sacrum in the caudal anatomical cross-sections, but not in the standard US images.

Conclusion: The detailed cross-sectional LM-sonoanatomy and reconstructions facilitate the interpretations of standard LM US-imaging, the position of the separate LM-bands, the details of deep interspinal muscles, and demarcation of the LM versus the ES. Guidelines for electrode positioning in EMG studies should be refined to establish reliable and verifiable findings. For clinical practice, this study can serve as a guide for a better characterisation of LM compared to ES and for a more reliable placement of US-probe in biofeedback.

Keywords: Anatomy; Electromyography; Erector spinae; Interspinal muscles; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Lumbosacral Region* / diagnostic imaging
  • Paraspinal Muscles* / diagnostic imaging
  • Paraspinal Muscles* / physiology
  • Ultrasonography