Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Interobserver reliability of rheumatologists performing musculoskeletal ultrasonography: results from a EULAR “Train the trainers” course
  1. A K Scheel1,
  2. W A Schmidt2,
  3. K-G A Hermann3,
  4. G A Bruyn4,
  5. M A D’Agostino5,
  6. W Grassi6,
  7. A Iagnocco7,
  8. J M Koski8,
  9. K P Machold9,
  10. E Naredo10,
  11. H Sattler11,
  12. N Swen12,
  13. M Szkudlarek13,
  14. R J Wakefield14,
  15. H R Ziswiler15,
  16. D Pasewaldt1,
  17. C Werner16,
  18. M Backhaus17
  1. 1Department of Nephrology and Rheumatology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany
  2. 2Medical Centre for Rheumatology Berlin-Buch, Berlin, Germany
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Charité University Hospital, Berlin, Germany
  4. 4Department of Rheumatology, Medisch Centrum Leeuwarden, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
  5. 5Department of Rheumatology, Ambroise Paré Hospital, UVSQ University, Boulogne Billancourt, France
  6. 6Department of Rheumatology, Universita degli Studi di Ancona, Ospedale A. Murri, Jesi (Ancona), Italy
  7. 7Department of Rheumatology, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
  8. 8Department of Rheumatology, Mikkeli Central Hospital, Mikkeli, Finland
  9. 9Department of Rheumatology, Vienna General Hospital, University of Vienna, Austria
  10. 10Department of Rheumatology, the Research Unit, and the Epidemiology Unit, Severo Ochoa Hospital, Madrid, Spain
  11. 11Department of Rheumatology, Parkklinik, Bad Durkheim, Germany
  12. 12Department of Rheumatology, Medisch Centrum Alkmaar, Alkmaar, The Netherlands
  13. 13Department of Rheumatology, University of Copenhagen, Hvidovre Hospital, Denmark
  14. 14Academic Department of Musculoskeletal Medicine, Leeds General Infirmary, UK
  15. 15Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland
  16. 16Department of Medical Statistics, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  17. 17Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité University Hospital, Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr A K Scheel
    Department of Medicine, Nephrology and Rheumatology, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany;


Objective: To evaluate the interobserver reliability among 14 experts in musculoskeletal ultrasonography (US) and to determine the overall agreement about the US results compared with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which served as the imaging “gold standard”.

Methods: The clinically dominant joint regions (shoulder, knee, ankle/toe, wrist/finger) of four patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases were ultrasonographically examined by 14 experts. US results were compared with MRI. Overall agreements, sensitivities, specificities, and interobserver reliabilities were assessed.

Results: Taking an agreement in US examination of 10 out of 14 experts into account, the overall κ for all examined joints was 0.76. Calculations for each joint region showed high κ values for the knee (1), moderate values for the shoulder (0.76) and hand/finger (0.59), and low agreement for ankle/toe joints (0.28). κ Values for bone lesions, bursitis, and tendon tears were high (κ = 1). Relatively good agreement for most US findings, compared with MRI, was found for the shoulder (overall agreement 81%, sensitivity 76%, specificity 89%) and knee joint (overall agreement 88%, sensitivity 91%, specificity 88%). Sensitivities were lower for wrist/finger (overall agreement 73%, sensitivity 66%, specificity 88%) and ankle/toe joints (overall agreement 82%, sensitivity 61%, specificity 92%).

Conclusion: Interobserver reliabilities, sensitivities, and specificities in comparison with MRI were moderate to good. Further standardisation of US scanning techniques and definitions of different pathological US lesions are necessary to increase the interobserver agreement in musculoskeletal US.

  • CRP, C reactive protein
  • ESR, erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • FSE, fast spin echo
  • MCP, metacarpophalangeal
  • MRI, magnetic resonance imaging
  • RA, rheumatoid arthritis
  • SL, slice
  • STIR, short τ inversion recovery
  • US, ultrasonography
  • ultrasonography
  • interobserver reliability
  • joints
  • magnetic resonance imaging

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.