Research Article| Volume 22, ISSUE 9, P972-979, November 2007

Can activity within the external abdominal oblique be measured using real-time ultrasound imaging?

  • E.K. John
    Physiotherapy Department, Kings College London, SE1 1UL, United Kingdom
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  • I.D. Beith
    Corresponding author. Address: Division of Applied Biomedical Research, Kings College London, SE1 1UL, United Kingdom.
    Physiotherapy Department, Kings College London, SE1 1UL, United Kingdom

    Division of Applied Biomedical Research, Kings College London, SE1 1UL, United Kingdom
    Search for articles by this author



      Differences in the function of the anterolateral abdominal muscles have been the subject of much investigation, but primarily using electromyography. Recently changes in thickness of transversus abdominis and internal oblique measured from real-time ultrasound images have been shown to represent activity within these muscles. However it is still unclear if such a change in thickness in external oblique similarly represents activity within that muscle. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between change in thickness and muscle activity in the external oblique using real-time ultrasound and surface electromyography.


      Simultaneous measurements of electromyography and real-time ultrasound images of external oblique were studied in up to 24 subjects during two tasks compared to the muscle at rest (1) isometric trunk rotation and (2) drawing in the lower abdomen.


      Changes in muscle thickness correlated significantly with electromyography during isometric trunk rotation in the majority of subjects but with a significant difference between subjects. In contrast, the relationship between change in thickness and electrical activity in the muscle when drawing in the lower abdomen was significant in less than 50% of subjects and the muscle often got thinner.


      Thickness changes of external oblique can be used as a valid indicator of electromyography activity during isometric trunk rotation, though the relationship is not as good as previously published data for transversus abdominis. Thickness changes of external oblique measured during lower abdominal drawing in cannot be used to detect activity within this muscle.


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