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Open Access Research article

Dynamic ultrasound imaging—A multivariate approach for the analysis and comparison of time-dependent musculoskeletal movements

Tommy Löfstedt, Olof Ahnlund, Michael Peolsson and Johan Trygg*

Author Affiliations

Computational Life Science Cluster (CLiC), Department of Chemistry, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

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BMC Medical Imaging 2012, 12:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-12-29

Published: 27 September 2012



Muscle functions are generally assumed to affect a wide variety of conditions and activities, including pain, ischemic and neurological disorders, exercise and injury. It is therefore very desirable to obtain more information on musculoskeletal contributions to and activity during clinical processes such as the treatment of muscle injuries, post-surgery evaluations, and the monitoring of progressive degeneration in neuromuscular disorders.

The spatial image resolution achievable with ultrasound systems has improved tremendously in the last few years and it is nowadays possible to study skeletal muscles in real-time during activity. However, ultrasound imaging has an inherent problem that makes it difficult to compare different measurement series or image sequences from two or more subjects. Due to physiological differences between different subjects, the ultrasound sequences will be visually different – partly because of variation in probe placement and partly because of the difficulty of perfectly reproducing any given movement.


Ultrasound images of the biceps and calf of a single subject were transformed to achieve congruence and then efficiently compressed and stacked to facilitate analysis using a multivariate method known as O2PLS. O2PLS identifies related and unrelated variation in and between two sets of data such that different phases of the studied movements can be analysed. The methodology was used to study the dynamics of the Achilles tendon and the calf and also the Biceps brachii and upper arm. The movements of these parts of the body are both of interest in clinical orthopaedic research.


This study extends the novel method of multivariate analysis of congruent images (MACI) to facilitate comparisons between two series of ultrasound images. This increases its potential range of medical applications and its utility for detecting, visualising and quantifying the dynamics and functions of skeletal muscle.


The most important results of this study are that MACI with O2PLS is able to consistently extract meaningful variability from pairs of ultrasound sequences. The MACI method with O2PLS is a powerful tool with great potential for visualising and comparing dynamics between movements. It has many potential clinical applications in the study of muscle injuries, post-surgery evaluations and evaluations of rehabilitation, and the assessment of athletic training interventions.

Ultrasound; Medical imaging; Wavelet transform; Musculoskeletal movements; Multivariate data analysis; O2PLS; Speckle tracking