Bedside ultrasound evaluation of tendon injuries

Teresa S Wu, Pedro J Roque, Jared Green, Dave Drachman, Kai-Ning Khor, Marcy Rosenberg, Claire Simpson
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2012, 30 (8): 1617-21

OBJECTIVE: The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the overall accuracy of bedside extremity tendon ultrasound performed by emergency physicians in the emergency department. We also sought to investigate whether or not bedside tendon ultrasonography can be used to expedite the diagnosis and discharge planning in patients with suspected tendon injuries.

METHODS: This was a prospective study conducted at 2 academic level 1 trauma centers. Thirty-four patients were enrolled and underwent a comprehensive physical examination of the injured extremity, followed by a bedside ultrasound evaluation to look for tendon disruption. Results of the tendon ultrasound were compared against the findings seen during wound exploration in the emergency department, wound exploration in the operating room, or results from an extremity magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

RESULTS: There were 6 finger injuries, 11 hand injuries, 6 arm injuries, 6 forearm injuries, and 5 lower extremity injuries. Of the 34 total patients, 4 patients had partial tendon injuries, 9 suffered from 100% tendon laceration or rupture, and 21 had no tendon injury noted on exploration or MRI. Bedside ultrasound had a sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 100%, 95%, and 97%, respectively. Physical examination had a sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 100%, 76%, and 85%, respectively. Average time to bedside ultrasound was 46.3 minutes compared with 138.6 minutes for wound irrigation and exploration, MRI, or surgery consultation.

CONCLUSION: Bedside ultrasound is more sensitive and specific than physical examination for detecting tendon lacerations, and takes less time to perform than traditional wound exploration techniques or MRI.

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