Ultrasonographical Investigations of Onchocerciasis in Liberia

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  • University Children's Hospital, Bernhard-Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany

The efficiency of ultrasonography (US) for the diagnosis and clinical characterization of onchocerciasis was evaluated. US was performed on 120 probands in Liberia. Ninety-two patients had generalized onchocerciasis, 21 patients suffered from the chronic hyperreactive form of onchocerciasis (sowda), and 7 probands served as controls. Patients were examined by US with linear (7.5 MHz and 5 MHz) and sector (3.5 MHz) scanners. US results were evaluated by examination of extirpated nodules. The US structure of nodules revealed a typical pattern consisting of a homogeneous echogenicity with small echodense particles and a lateral acoustic shadow, and differentiation from lymph nodes, lipoma, or fibroma was achieved. Within the onchocercomata, calcifications or fluid were identified. Regarding the estimation of the worm burden, it is important to note that in 24 patients, additional nodules not previously palpated were found by US. Also, the number of worm centers in palpable conglomerate nodules was determined more exactly by US than by palpation. In 4 of 16 sowda patients, impalpable nodules were found by US. In 13 patients with positive microfilaria counts, no nodules could be detected. The highly characteristic ultrasonographical pattern of onchocercomata may serve as a basis for further US investigations in onchocerciasis.