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Diagnostic accuracy of examination tests for lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET): a systematic review

Karanasios S, Korakakis V, Moutzouri M, Drakonaki E, Koci K, Pantazopoulou V, Tsepis E, Gioftsos G

Journal of Hand Therapy 2021 Feb 27;35(4):541-551

systematic review

BACKGROUND: Reviews on the diagnostic performance of the examination tests for lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET) based on updated context-specific tools and guidelines are missing. PURPOSE: To review the diagnostic accuracy of examination tests used in LET. DESIGN: Systematic review following PRISMA-DTA guidelines. METHODS: We searched Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, PEDro, ScienceDirect, and Cochrane Library databases. The QUADAS-2 checklist was used to assess the methodological quality of the eligible studies. We included diagnostic studies reporting the accuracy of physical examination tests or imaging modalities used in patients with LET. RESULTS: Twenty-four studies with 1,370 participants were identified reporting the diagnostic performance of Ultrasound Imaging (USI) (18 studies), physical examination tests (2 studies) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) (4 studies). Most studies (97%) were assessed with "unclear" or "high risk" of bias. Sonoelastography showed the highest sensitivity (75 to 100%) and specificity (85 to 96%). Grayscale with or without Doppler USI presented poor to excellent values (sensitivity 53% to 100%, specificity 42% to 90%). MRI performed better in the diagnosis of tendon thickening and enthesopathy (sensitivity and specificity 81% to 100%). The Cozen's test reported high sensitivity (91%) while a grip strength difference of 5% to 10% between elbow flexion and extension showed high sensitivity (78% to 83%) and specificity (80% to 90%). CONCLUSIONS: Cozen's test and grip strength measurement present high accuracy in the diagnosis of LET but are poorly investigated. USI and MRI provide variable diagnostic accuracy depending on the entities reported and should be recommended with caution when differential diagnosis is necessary. Substantial heterogeneity was found in inclusion criteria, operator/ examiner, mode of application, type of equipment and reference standards across the studies.

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