PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to confirm our clinical observation that a pseudo-tear appearance of the Achilles tendon is commonly seen on MRI and is of no clinical relevance.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty-one ankles were imaged on a 3 T MR system, and PD weighted images with fat saturation were obtained in three orthogonal planes (TR, 2969 ms; TE, 30 ms; NA, 2; slice thickness, 2.5 mm). Volunteer exclusion criteria were symptoms of Achilles tendon pathology (such as acute or chronic posterior heel pain), history of trauma or surgery of the Achilles tendon. Internal signal of the Achilles tendon on axial and sagittal images was assessed independently by two observers. Internal signal of the Achilles tendon was classified from homogenously dark to different degree of hyperintense signal, where 0 means no internal hyperintensity, 1-minimal hyperintensity, 2-moderate and 3-marked. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Correlation between the two readers was also assessed. Two fresh cadavers were used in this study, one specimen being sliced in the sagittal plane and one specimen being dissected by an experienced anatomist.
RESULTS: Twenty one volunteers (8 men, 13 women), mean age of 24.7 years (19-43 years) were included in the study. On sagittal images both raters appreciated any degree of hyperintense signal in 59% of tendons. On axial images any degree of hyperintensity was seen in almost half of the cases (46 vs. 49%). Minimal hyperintensities were seen most commonly. Cohen's kappa coefficient for sagittal images was 0.964 (almost perfect agreement); for axial images 0.764 (substantial agreement). The anatomical studies demonstrated that the Achilles tendon is made up of different components that are partially separated and twist around each other explaining the pseudo-tear appearance.
CONCLUSION: The Achilles tendon is frequently not homogenously dark in normal volunteers as would be expected. Hyperintense signal is common in the long and short axis and related to the underlying anatomical features.