Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy: Correlation of Ultrasound Findings With Pain and Functional Disability

Lateral elbow tendinopathy is a common condition often diagnosed by ultrasound. Debate exists regarding which ultrasound findings correlate with disease severity and prognosis. Sonographic predictors for tendon healing in patients with lateral elbow tendinopathy can be found by correlating initial ultrasound findings with subsequent changes in pain and functional disability scores after a period of nonoperative management. Sixty-two elbows (34 right, 28 left) in 62 patients (30 male, 32 female) with a clinical diagnosis of lateral elbow tendinopathy underwent sonographic evaluation of the common extensor origin after assessment with a validated outcome measure, the Patient-Rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation (PRTEE). After 6 months of nonoperative standardized treatment (physiotherapy with eccentric loading), the PRTEE questionnaire was repeated. The mean pretreatment PRTEE was 78 (range, 51-97) and posttreatment score was 29 (range, 0-91). This difference in means was found to be significant (P < .0001). A positive correlation was identified between the presence of a lateral collateral ligament tear (P < .0001) and the size of the largest intrasubstance tear (P < .0001) and poor outcome. A negative correlation was identified with amount of hypoechogenicity (P = .0009). No correlation was found with age, sex, side, duration of symptoms, thickness of tendon, or amount of neovascularity.

The size of intrasubstance tears and presence of a lateral collateral ligament tear on ultrasound can be used to assess lateral elbow tendinopathy severity, indicate those who may not respond to nonoperative therapy, and potentially guide more invasive treatment. Those patients with a large intrasubstance tear or tears identified on ultrasound are less likely to respond to nonoperative treatment. Presence of neovascularity has little correlation with change in pain severity or functional disability and may be a poor predictor of prognosis.

Clarke, A. W., Ahmad, M., Curtis, M., Connell, D. A. Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy: Correlation of Ultrasound Findings With Pain and Functional Disability. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2010, 38 (6), 1209-1214