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Ultrasound-guided shoulder girdle injections are more accurate and more effective than landmark-guided injections: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Objective To compare the accuracy and efficacy of ultrasound (US)-guided injections versus landmark-guided injections of the subacromial space, biceps tendon sheath, acromioclavicular (AC) joint and glenohumeral (GH) joint.

Methods PubMed, Medline and Cochrane libraries were searched up to 31 July 2013. Two independent authors selected and evaluated randomised controlled trials comparing the accuracy and/or efficacy of US versus landmark-guided injection of the shoulder girdle. A meta-analysis of accuracy, pain Visual Analog Scale (VAS), function score and reported adverse events were performed.

Result Four cadaveric studies (300 cadaveric shoulders) and nine live human studies (514 patients) were reviewed. Based on three studies for AC joint, the accuracy of US versus a landmark-guided injection was 93.6% vs 68.2% (p<0.0001). Based on single studies, the accuracy of US versus a landmark-guided injection was 65% vs 70% for the subacromial space (p>0.05), 86.7% vs 26.7% for the biceps tendon sheath (p<0.05), and 92.5% vs 72.5% for the GH joint (p=0.025). Based on three studies for the subacromial space, the US group had a significantly greater reduction in pain (mean difference (MD)=1.47, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.93), and improvement in function (standardised MD=0.70, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.01) at 6 weeks postinjection. Based on a single study for the biceps tendon sheath, the US group had a significantly greater reduction in pain (MD 1.9, 95% CI 1.2 to 2.6) and improvement in function (MD=10.9, 95% CI 6.57 to 15.23).

Conclusions US-guided injections showed greater accuracy for all shoulder girdle injections, with the exception of the subacromial space. There was improved efficacy for the subacromial space and biceps tendon sheath injections.

  • Intervention efficacy
  • Shoulder
  • Ultrasound

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