Tendon appearance at imaging may be altered, but it may not indicate pathology

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2023 May;31(5):1625-1628. doi: 10.1007/s00167-023-07339-6. Epub 2023 Feb 17.


Both in tendon repair following a tear and in tendinopathy, recovery from pain and restoration of (acceptable) function does not go hand in hand with the appearance of the affected tendon at imaging. The tendon may remain altered for a long while and possibly forever, indicating a possible dissociation between morphology and symptoms. The predictive value of asymptomatic abnormal findings remains limited, and interventions in such instances are inappropriate and not supported by current evidence. Once an initial imaging investigation has depicted the condition of the tendon, additional imaging investigations are unlikely to provide further information or change prognosis in patients in whom abnormalities compatible with a diagnosis of tendinopathy have been identified by either ultrasonography or MRI. Patient education and close clinical monitoring are recommended. This is applicable to the patellar tendon, Achilles tendon, rotator cuff, for both tendon repair and tendinopathy. Given the modest risk of sonographic abnormalities to develop in symptomatic tendinopathy, planning and trying to implement any form of intervention may not be warranted. The current evidence mostly arises from low-quality studies, with heterogeneous risk factors and populations, and caution must be maintained when interpreting the significance of such incidental findings in athletes.

Keywords: Function; Tendinopathy; Tendon.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon*
  • Humans
  • Patellar Ligament* / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology
  • Tendinopathy*
  • Ultrasonography