Sonoelastography shows that Achilles tendons with insertional tendinopathy are harder than asymptomatic tendons
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To seek differences of Achilles tendon hardness between insertional tendinopathy (IT) and asymptomatic controls by using computer-assisted quantification on axial-strain sonoelastography (ASE).
The study consisted of 37 non-athletic patients presenting with Achilles tendon pain in one or two tendons. Both tendons were examined clinically. Among the 74 tendons, 16 were diagnosed and categorized into an IT group and 29 into an asymptomatic group. The remaining 29 tendons were excluded due to non-insertional tendinopathy, ruptures, previous surgery or mixed disorders. The tendons in the IT and asymptomatic groups were examined with both ASE and conventional ultrasound. Computer-assisted quantification on ASE was conducted to extract parameters of tendon hardness, including the 20th percentile (H20), median (H50) and skewness (Hsk) of the hardness within tendon, as well as the ratio of the mean hardness within tendon to that outside tendon (Hratio).
The H20 (p = 0.003), H50 (p = 0.004) and Hratio (p = 0.002) were larger and Hsk (p = 0.001) was smaller at distal thirds of IT tendons than those of asymptomatic tendons. For differentiation between two groups, the Hsk achieved the best value (0.815) of area under the receiver operating characteristic curve, with a sensitivity of 81.3 %, a specificity of 86.2 % and an accuracy of 84.4 %.
Computer-assisted quantification on ASE shows that IT tendons are harder than asymptomatic tendons. It might act as a potentially useful technique for identification and risk stratification of IT patients and thus be valuable in day-by-day clinical practice for monitoring IT progression and for evaluating therapeutic effects.
Level of evidence
KeywordsSonoelastography Achilles tendon Insertional tendinopathy Tissue hardness Tissue elasticity Computer-assisted quantification
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (61401267 and 61471231). The authors wish to thank Dr. Liangjun Zhang for his editorial contributions and the anonymous referees for their careful review.
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