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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Jun;202(6):W532-40. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.11457.

Ultrasound of musculoskeletal soft-tissue tumors superficial to the investing fascia.

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1 Department of Imaging and Interventional Radiology, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 30-32 Ngan Shing St, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong.



The objective of our study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound in assessing musculoskeletal soft-tissue tumors superficial to the investing fascia.


Seven hundred fourteen superficial soft-tissue tumors evaluated with ultrasound by two musculoskeletal radiologists were retrospectively reviewed. In all ultrasound reports, the reporting radiologists provided one, two, or three diagnoses depending on their perceived level of diagnostic certainty. Two hundred forty-seven tumors had subsequent histologic correlation, thus allowing the accuracy of the ultrasound diagnosis to be determined. Images of the lesions with a discordant ultrasound diagnosis and histologic diagnosis were reviewed, and the ultrasound features were further classified as concordant with the known histologic diagnosis, concordant with the known histologic diagnosis with atypical features present, or discordant with the known histologic diagnosis. Four hundred sixty-seven tumors without pathologic confirmation were followed up clinically.


Overall the accuracy of ultrasound examination for assessing superficial soft-tissue masses was 79.0% when all differential diagnoses were considered and 77.0% when only the first differential diagnosis was considered. The sensitivity and specificity of the first ultrasound diagnosis were 95.2% and 94.3%, respectively, for lipoma; 73.0% and 97.7% for vascular malformation; 80.0% and 95.4% for epidermoid cyst; and 68.8% and 95.2% for nerve sheath tumor. Reduced observer awareness of specific tumor entities tended to contribute to underdiagnosis more than poor specificity of ultrasound findings. Most tumors (236/247, 96%) were benign. The sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound for identifying malignant superficial soft-tissue tumors was 94.1% and 99.7%, respectively.


The diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound in the assessment of superficial musculoskeletal soft-tissue tumors is high and can be improved through increased radiologist awareness of less frequently encountered tumors. Ultrasound is accurate for differentiating benign from malignant superficial soft-tissue tumors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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