OBJECTIVES: To systematically review the current literature concerning the role of superb microvascular imaging (SMI), a novel Doppler technique that enables detection of fine vessels and slow blood flow, in the evaluation of musculoskeletal disorders.
METHODS: An online search of the literature was conducted for the period 2013 to April 2019 and included original articles written in English language. A data analysis was performed at the end of the literature search.
RESULTS: Eight original articles with prospective design and one with retrospective design were included in this review: 4 studies focused on rheumatoid arthritis, 2 on rheumatoid and other arthritides, 1 on lateral epicondylosis and 2 on carpal tunnel syndrome. Sample size ranged from 26 to 83 patients. Despite some methodological differences, all studies compared the performance of SMI with that of a conventional Doppler technique such as power and color Doppler and found an improvement in vascularity detection with SMI. The main variations were in sample size, evaluated parameters and vascularity interpretation methods. Inter-observer agreement for SMI ranged from moderate to excellent.
CONCLUSIONS: SMI is a promising tool for the diagnosis and treatment planning of different musculoskeletal disorders. Future investigations should include larger samples of patients with long-term follow-up.