Background Disorders of the long head of the biceps brachii tendon (LHBt) are commonly recognized as a source of shoulder pain. Ultrasound (US) is thought to be of limited value in the diagnosis of partial-thickness tear and non-tear abnormalities of the LHBt because of the difficulty to assess its intra-articular proximal portion. Brasseur recently described that placing the arm in extension/external rotation increased LHBt intra-articular portion visibility.
Objectives The goal of this study was to determine if the systematic assessment of the intra-articular portion of the tendon, from the rotator interval to its glenoid insertion, with the arm placed in extension/external rotation could increase US sensitivity.
Methods This was a cross-sectional study. All patients referred for the treatment of a rotator cuff disease (rupture, tendinopathy, calcific deposit) with an available MRI were included. US was performed blinded from the results of the clinical or MRI using a Sonosite Edge with a 6–13 MHz probe. LHBt was studied at different level: in the bicipital groove, at the rotator interval, over the upper pole of the humerus head to its insertion on the superior glenoid tubercule. To increase the visibility of the proximal portion, we placed the arm in extension/external rotation as described by Brasseur . Diagnosis of tendinopathy were tendon enlargement, hypoechogenicity and an increase in the interfibrillar distance. Subluxation or dislocation of the LHBt was defined as a partial or total loss of contact between the tendon and its groove. Tearing of tendon was defined as discontinuity or absence of tendon fibers. Fluid collection was defined as an anechoic ring around the tendon >2 mm. Abnormalities of the LBHt on MRI was retrieved from the report. LBHt abnormalities detected on arthroscopy were used as the gold standard.
Results We included 129 patients, 57 female (44%), and mean age 54 years (33–73). Seventy-five (58%) had a rotator cuff tear and 54 (42%) a tendinopathy. Arthroscopy found LHBt pathological changes in 39% of the case. The summary of the findings obtained with MRI, US (distal and proximal) and arthroscopy are summarised in table 1.
We calculated the sensitivity/specificity of MRI and US (at the proximal and distal level) in the detection of LHBt changes using arthroscopy as gold standard (Table 2).
Conclusions US has a good specificity but a poor sensitivity in the detection of LHB tendon changes even when a systematic and carreful study of the proximal part of the tendon is undertaken. If detection of distal changes of the tendon in the inter-tubercular groove seems feasible with US, the involvement of the more proximal, intra-articular part of the tendon remains challenging. MRI sensitivity remains also poor. Overall, arthroscopy still remains the gold standard to detect LHB tendon intra-articular pathology.
Brasseur, The biceps tendons: from the top and from the bottom. Journal of ultrasound (2012) 15, 29–38.
Disclosure of Interest None declared