This work was performed at the Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Horizontal instability influences the clinical outcome after acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) injuries and in joint degeneration. A standardized, dynamic examination of the horizontal instability has not been described before. This current study presents a sonographic method to analyze the dynamics between the clavicle and acromion in the horizontal plane.
The horizontal joint play, the ACJ space and the offset between clavicle and acromion were sonographically assessed by a 45° ventrally angulated longitudinal section. A total of four investigators with different experience in the field of musculoskeletal ultrasound examining 20 ACJs in 10 human cadavers. Measurements in the absence of any pressure and under standardized anterior and posterior pressure onto the clavicle were carried out in different ligament status intact acromioclavicular (AC) and coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments as well as in a Rockwood (RW) II and III model. A two-sided t‑test was used to examine the differences between joint positions and ligament status.
The horizontal joint play was 1.3 ± 0.9 mm with intact ligaments, 1.4 ± 1.2 mm by transecting the AC ligaments and 1.9 ± 1.3 mm after additionally transecting the CC ligament. The joint space was 3.3 ± 1.1 mm with intact ligaments, 4.1 ± 1.8 mm in an iatrogenic RW 2 injury, and 5.3 ± 3.3 mm in an iatrogenic RW 3 injury. Manipulating the clavicle by applying anterior or posterior pressure did not change the difference within one injury pattern. Interobserver reliability was 83.9%.
Apart from evaluating the ligaments and the joint capsule, measurement of the dynamic horizontal instability is possible in a human cadaver model. The ultrasound-based measurement of horizontal instability dynamics avoids radiation exposure, is readily available and cost-efficient.