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Bilateral changes in tendon structure of patients diagnosed with unilateral insertional or midportion achilles tendinopathy or patellar tendinopathy


Rabello LM, van den Akker-Scheek I, Kuipers IF, Diercks RL, Brink MS, Zwerver J


Springer Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 2020 May;28(5):1631-1638

Publishing detail

PMID: 30937472

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Purpose: Changes in tendon structure are commonly seen in patients with unilateral achilles (AT) or patellar (PT) tendinopathy but might also be present on the asymptomatic side, indicating a higher risk for developing symptoms. The aim of this study is to compare tendon structure of the symptomatic side with the asymptomatic side in AT and PT patients and control subjects.

Methods: A total of 46 patients with unilateral AT (16 insertional and 30 midportion) and 38 with unilateral PT were included. For the control group, a total of 18 Achilles tendons and 25 patellar tendons were scanned. Tendon structure was assessed using ultrasound tissue characterisation (UTC), which quantifies tendon organisation dividing the structure into four different echo types (I-IV).

Results: There were significant differences in echo types I, III, and IV between symptomatic and asymptomatic sides and controls. Additionally, there was a significant difference between the symptomatic and the asymptomatic side for all tendinopathy locations. In the insertional AT tendon portion, the symptomatic side showed a higher percentage of echo type III. For the midportion AT, the symptomatic side showed a lower percentage of echo type I and a higher percentage of echo types III and IV. For the patellar tendon, the symptomatic side showed a higher percentage of echo types III and IV. All differences were higher than the minimal detectable changes.

Conclusion: Although patients have symptoms unilaterally, the tendon structures are compromised on both sides. These results stress the importance of monitoring both symptomatic and asymptomatic tendon structures and in addition highlight that the asymptomatic side should not be used as reference in clinical practice.

Level of evidence: III.

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