Ultrasonographic diagnostics of pain in the lateral cubital compartment and proximal forearm.

Anna Dębek1, Paweł Nowicki2, Zbigniew Czyrny3

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2012; 12 (49): 188–201

Pain in the lateral compartment of the elbow joint and decreased strength of the extensor muscle constitute a fairly common clinical problem. These symptoms, occurring in such movements as inverting and converting the forearm, pushing, lifting and pulling, mostly affect people who carry out daily activities with an intense use of wrist, e.g. work on computer. Strains in this area often result from persistent overload and degeneration processes of the common extensor tendon and the radial collateral ligament. Similar symptoms resulting from the compression of deep branch of the radial nerve in radial nerve tunnel should be remembered as well. It happens that both conditions occur simultaneously. A proper diagnosis is essential in undertaking an effective treatment. Ultrasonography is a non-invasive method and the application of high-end apparatus with heads of frequencies exceeding 12 MHz allows for a precise evaluation of joint structures, tendons and nerves. In case of the so-called tennis elbow, the examination allows for evaluation of the degree and extent of injury to the radial collateral ligament and common extensor tendon, in addition to the presence of blood vessels in inflicted area. Administration of autologous blood platelets concentrate containing growth factors, used in treatment of tennis elbow, is performed under ultrasound image control conditions. This allows for a precise incision of scar whilst keeping a healthy (unaffected) tissue margin to form fine channels enabling the penetration of growth factors. Post-surgery medical check-up allows for the evaluation of treatment effectiveness. In radial nerve tunnel syndrome, the ultrasound examination can reveal abnormalities in the deep branch of the radial nerve and within the anatomical structures adjacent to the nerve in the radial nerve tunnel. Furthermore, the ultrasound examination allows for detection of other articular and extraarticular pathologies, which affect the compression of the deep branch of radial nerve, such as skeletal deformations, post-traumatic changes, arthritis, and the presence of tumors. The ultrasonography is also helpful in differentiation of symptoms arising from cervical radiculopathy or brachial plexus injury.

tennis elbow, common extensor tendon, lateral collateral ligament complex, radial tunnel syndrome, deep branch of the radial nerve