Objective: Power Doppler sonography is a relatively new technique that has been shown to depict hyperemia associated with musculoskeletal inflammatory disease. We performed this study to evaluate the ability of power Doppler sonography to differentiate musculoskeletal fluid collections of varying etiologies.
Subjects and methods: Gray-scale and power Doppler sonography were performed on 39 patients with joint effusions or appendicular fluid collections. Blood flow (hyperemia) in the soft tissues adjacent to the fluid collections was subjectively analyzed and graded on a scale of 1 to 4 (1, normal flow; 2-4, increasing degrees of hyperemia). All fluid collections were aspirated within 24 hr of the sonographic examination. We found 31 joint effusions and 12 periarticular collections with appropriate imaging and pathologic correlation.
Results: Adjacent to 36 effusions and fluid collections, we saw moderate or marked hyperemia. Thirty-five of the 36 had an inflammatory or neoplastic cause, including 15 infected collections. One fluid collection had a degenerative etiology (subdeltoid bursitis secondary to supraspinatus tendon tear). Adjacent to the seven remaining effusions and fluid collections, we saw normal or mildly increased hyperemia; none of these collections had an inflammatory etiology.
Conclusion: Power Doppler sonography helps distinguish inflammatory and infectious musculoskeletal fluid collections from those that are noninflammatory, and it may help guide the decision to perform diagnostic aspiration. Power Doppler sonography does not reliably differentiate between inflammatory collections of infectious and noninfectious origin because collections of either origin may significantly increase adjacent soft-tissue perfusion.