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High-resolution ultrasonography in assessment of nail-related disorders.

Skeletal Radiology 2012 September
OBJECTIVE: Disorders of the nail can pose a diagnostic challenge, and non-invasive imaging is frequently required to clarify diagnosis and delineate anatomy pre-operatively. We explored the use of high-resolution ultrasonography in the assessment of patients with nail disorders attending orthopaedic hand clinics.

METHODS: A search of a university teaching hospital musculoskeletal radiology database identified 36 patients (mean age 54.2 years) where ultrasonography was used to assess nail-related disorders between April 2003 and January 2007. Clinical, surgical and histological findings were correlated in these cases with ultrasound reports.

RESULTS: Ultrasound findings correlated with the provisional diagnosis in 20 (61%) of 33 patients and provided a diagnosis in 3 patients where a provisional diagnosis was unavailable. In 7 of the 13 cases where the clinical diagnosis differed from ultrasound findings, a lump originally diagnosed as cystic in origin was shown to be solid on ultrasound. Different nail pathologies showed different characteristics on ultrasonography, including differences in vascularity, echogenicity, changes in nail structure/shape and extension into the nail bed, matrix, fold or evidence of bony erosion. The ultrasound findings correlated with histological analysis and intra-operative assessment in 10 of 15 patients who underwent operative treatment.

CONCLUSION: Ultrasound provides important information on the anatomy of the nail apparatus and can differentiate solid and cystic lesions. It can be used as a diagnostic tool and can therefore help in pre-operative planning of nail-related disorders. In our series ultrasound supported or improved upon the clinical diagnosis in 31 (86%) out of the 36 patients presenting with nail-related disorders.

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