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Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2017 Oct;25(10):3229-3236. doi: 10.1007/s00167-015-3862-7. Epub 2015 Nov 26.

Physical examination tests and imaging studies based on arthroscopic assessment of the long head of biceps tendon are invalid.

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Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust, Merseyside, UK.
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, Clifford Bridge Road, Coventry, CV2 2DX, UK.
Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust, Merseyside, UK.



The aim of this study was to evaluate whether glenohumeral arthroscopy is an appropriate gold standard for the diagnosis of long head of biceps (LHB) tendon pathology. The objectives were to evaluate whether the length of tendon that can be seen at arthroscopy allows visualisation of areas of predilection of pathology and also to determine the rates of missed diagnoses at arthroscopy when compared to an open approach.


A systematic review of cadaveric and clinical studies was performed. The search strategy was applied to MEDLINE, PubMed and Google Scholar databases. All relevant articles were included. Critical appraisal of clinical studies was performed using a validated quality assessment scale.


Five articles were identified for inclusion in the review. This included both clinical and cadaveric studies. The overall population comprised 18 cadaveric specimens and 575 patients. Out of the five included studies, three reported the length of LHB tendon visualised during arthroscopy and four reported the rate of missed LHB diagnosis. Cadaveric studies showed that the use of a hook probe allowed arthroscopic visualisation of between 34 and 48 % of the overall length of the LHB. In the clinical series, the rate of missed diagnoses at arthroscopy when compared to open exploration ranged between 33 and 49 %.


Arthroscopy allows visualisation of only a small part of the extra-articular LHB tendon. This leads to a high rate of missed pathology in the distal part of the tendon. Published figures for sensitivities and specificities of common physical examination and imaging tests for LHB pathology that are based on arthroscopy as the gold standard are therefore invalid. In clinical practice, it is important to note that a "negative" arthroscopic assessment does not exclude a lesion of the LHB tendon as this technique does not allow visualisation of common sites of distal pathology.




Arthroscopy; Diagnosis; Long head of biceps; Shoulder

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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