Intra-rater and inter-rater reliability of the process of obtaining cross-sectional area and echo intensity measurements of muscles from ultrasound images

Eric J. Sobolewski, Leah D. Wein, Jacquelyn M. Crow, Kaitlyn M. Carpenter

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2021; 21: e7–e11
DOI: 10.15557/JoU.2021.0002

Introduction: The use of ultrasound images for analyzing muscle quality and size is continuing to grow in the literature. However, many of these manuscripts fail to properly describe their measurement techniques and steps involved in analyzing ultrasound images. Aim of this study: To evaluate the intra- and inter-rater reliability of the steps involved when analyzing ultrasound images to measure cross-sectional area and echo intensity. Material and methods: Twenty ultrasound images of the rectus femoris and vastus lateralis images were blinded and replicated, and then analyzed by experienced raters. The raters then were asked to analyze the images using open-source software for scaling measurements, subcutaneous fat thickness, cross-sectional area, and echo intensity. Matched image values for each measurement where compared for intra- and inter-rater reliability. Results: Intra-rater reliability ranged from fair (ICC3,1 = 0.32) to high (0.98), with echo intensity values being the least reliable (>0.55), and scaling and depth measurements being the most reliable (<0.85). Inter-rater reliability ranged from good (0.77) to high (0.97). Conclusion: Ultrasound- derived measures of cross-sectional area and echo intensity can be measured reliably, with echo intensity being the most difficult to replicate. However, reliability measures are unique to the rater and study and, therefore, should be clearly reported in every paper.

muscle quality, muscle size, ultrasonography, echogenicity