Content » Vol 51, Issue 7

Review article

Accuracy of examination of the long head of the biceps tendon in the clinical setting: A systematic review

Valérie Bélanger, Frédérique Dupuis, Jean Leblond, Jean-Sébastien Roy
Physical medicine and Rehabilitation, CHU de Quebec-Université Lava, , G1J1Z4 Quebec City, Canada. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2563


Objective: To determine the diagnostic validity of high-resolution ultrasound and orthopaedic special tests in diagnosing long head of the biceps tendon pathologies in patients with shoulder pain.
Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis tools.
Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL and EMBASE.
Data extraction: Included studies had to report on the diagnostic validity of orthopaedic special tests or high-resolution ultrasound (HRUS) compared with a reference standard for diagnosing long head of the biceps tendon target conditions (superior labrum anterior and posterior lesions, long head of the biceps tendon tendinopathy, dislocation, effusion or rupture). Risk of bias was assessed using the Quality Assessment Tool for Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) tool.
Results: Of the 30 included studies, 8 focused on high-resolution ultrasound and 22 on orthopaedic special tests. High-resolution ultrasound proved highly specific for the diagnosis of long head of the biceps tendon pathologies. Pooled positive (LR+) and negative (LR–) likelihood ratios were 38.00 and 0.24 for dislocation, respectively, and 35.50 and 0.30 for complete rupture, respectively. The accuracy of orthopaedic special tests varied greatly across studies. The only test of value was Yergason’s ma-noeuvre in confirming proximal long head of the biceps tendon pathologies except superior labrum anterior and posterior lesion (high specificity): the summary LR+ and LR– were 2.56 and 0.70, respectively.
Conclusion: High-resolution ultrasound is reliable to confirm suspected long head of the biceps tendon pathologies. There is insufficient evidence to recommend individual orthopaedic special tests.

Lay Abstract

People with shoulder pain seek medical attention in order to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life. However, given the complexity of the shoulder girdle, making the right diagnosis can be challenging. Clinicians and other healthcare practitioners base their approach on the findings of current medical history, as well as physical and ultrasound examinations. Once a structure is identified as a potential pain-generator, a specific therapy can be used. The biceps tendon is one such structure. The aim of this study is to assess the accuracy of physical and ultrasound examinations in diag-nosing biceps tendon pathologies. This will help to guide clinical decision-making and may prevent delay in seeking specific treatment approaches.

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