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Keywords:

  • axillary neuropathy;
  • posterior circumflex humeral artery;
  • quadrilateral space syndrome;
  • teres minor muscle;
  • ultrasonography

Summary

Quadrilateral space syndrome (QSS) is described as compression neuropathy of the axillary neurovascular bundle in the quadrilateral space of the shoulder. This neurovascular bundle includes the posterior circumflex humeral artery (PCHA). Historically, angiography and more recently magnetic resonance angiography have been used to assess occlusion and stenosis of the PCHA in cases of suspected QSS. These traditional imaging techniques have a number of disadvantages in terms of cost, availability, invasiveness and patient comfort. We undertook to examine the ability of ultrasound to reliably visualise the PCHA. Asymptomatic adult volunteers were recruited from staff, and patients attending the radiology department who presented for pathologies unrelated to the shoulder. We used a new technique to assess blood flow in the PCHA, performing the scan from a posterolateral approach on the upper arm just above the level of the surgical neck of the humerus. This technique enabled the scan to be undertaken with the patient seated comfortably. Fifty volunteers were recruited into the study. The mean (±SD) age was 35 (±14 years). The PCHA was visualised in all patients. Our method was able to maximise Doppler sensitivity and visualisation of the artery without discomfort to the patient in less than 10 min. Ultrasound can be used to reliably visualise the PCHA. Ultrasound has potential to be used in the assessment of the PCHA in cases of QSS.