ultrasound of the scapular muscles


During her presentation at the international symposium on Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging (RUSI), which was held in Madrid June 2016, Cliona O’Sullivan discussed the reliability, validity and clinical applications of RUSI of the scapular muscles. She concluded that, correctly used, RUSI is a valid and reliable tool to examine the lower trapezius (LT) muscle. Examining the serratus anterior (SA) muscle was found to be more difficult, and further research is necessary.

According to the definition stated by Teyhen (2006), RUSI is an adjunct to the physiotherapist’s toolbox: it helps evaluate morphology and function of muscles and soft tissues during functional tasks and provides visual feedback to both the patient as well as the physiotherapist during therapeutic interventions.

Since the 1990’s, RUSI has particularly been used in populations presenting with low back pain – its application has dramatically increased in the 2000’s. O’Sullivan and her research group have undertaken attempts to transpond research on RUSI in low back pain populations to protocols for the scapular muscles.

Different measurement protocols have been investigated, showing that especially for the LT, RUSI is a valid and reliable evaluation method; it can be assessed relatively easy at T8. The SA on the other hand is more difficult to assess, and results suggest a minimum length of training for assessors in order to increase validity and reliability.

Studies on this topic are often underpowered and further research is required, evaluating the applicability of RUSI in the detection of changes in scapular muscle morphology and function resulting from training interventions, or as a feedback tool. Furthermore, minimum training requirements and clinical classifications need to be established.