Objective: To compare information gained by ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in chronic achilles tendinopathy with regard to the nature and severity of the lesion.
Design: Imaging of both achilles tendons with ultrasonography and MRI was performed prior to unilateral surgery. Operative findings and histological biopsies together served as a reference.
Patients: Twenty-seven patients (22 men, 5 women; mean age 44 years; 21 athletes) suffering from chronic achilles tendinopathy participated in the study. Eighteen patients had unilateral and 9 had bilateral symptoms.
Results and conclusions: Surgical findings included 4 partial ruptures, 21 degenerative lesions and 2 macroscopically normal cases. Microscopy revealed tendinosis (degeneration) in all tendon biopsies, including cases with a partial rupture, but only slight changes in the paratendinous tissues (paratenon). Ultrasonography was positive in 21 of 26 and MRI in 26 of 27 cases. Severe intratendinous abnormalities and a sagittal tendon diameter > 10 mm suggested a partial rupture. In tendons with a false negative result histopathological changes were mild and a tendency towards a better clinical outcome was noted in the sonographic cases. Assessment of the paratenon was unreliable with both methods. Ultrasonography and MRI give similar information and may have their greatest potential as prognostic instruments.