Sonographic Assessment of Hand Injuries: Diagnostic Accuracy and Review of Pathology

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HSS Journal


Background: The high soft-tissue contrast of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) makes it useful for evaluation of hand injuries, but its limitations include cost, imaging artifacts, and patient claustrophobia. Ultrasound is readily available, fast, noninvasive, and radiation free, but its utility for the evaluation of hand soft-tissue injury and pathology is less well known. Purpose: We sought to examine the accuracy of ultrasound for the evaluation of hand injury at a single institution. Methods: We queried a radiology information system for ultrasound cases between 2014 and 2020 at a tertiary care institution using the keyword “hand” and injury terms. We performed a retrospective chart review of cases found according to the type of injury detected on ultrasound. To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound in hand injury and pathology, we recorded postimaging clinical diagnoses and surgical findings. Results: We found 154 patients who underwent ultrasound for hand injuries and had confirmed surgical diagnosis and/or robust clinical follow-up. Tendon injury was the most commonly diagnosed condition on ultrasound (70/154); others detected were retained foreign body (31), mass (21), ligamentous injury (9), pulley injury (8), nerve injury (11), and traumatic arthropathy (4). Ultrasound correctly characterized hand injury in 150/154 cases (97.4%) based on surgical and/or clinical follow-up. Ultrasound failed to diagnose 3 cases of partial tendon tear and 1 case of digital nerve injury. Conclusion: In this retrospective, single-institution review, ultrasound was found to be highly accurate in the detection of soft tissue hand injury and pathology, demonstrating a high concordance rate with surgical and clinical findings. Further study is warranted.

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