OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of ultrasound-detected tendon abnormalities in healthy subjects (HS) across the age range. METHODS: Adult HS (age 18-80 years) were recruited in 23 international Outcome Measures in Rheumatology ultrasound centres and were clinically assessed to exclude inflammatory diseases or overt osteoarthritis before undergoing a bilateral ultrasound examination of digit flexors (DFs) 1-5 and extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendons to detect the presence of tenosynovial hypertrophy (TSH), tenosynovial power Doppler (TPD) and tenosynovial effusion (TEF), usually considered ultrasound signs of inflammatory diseases. A comparison cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was taken from the Birmingham Early Arthritis early arthritis inception cohort. RESULTS: 939 HS and 144 patients with RA were included. The majority of HS (85%) had grade 0 for TSH, TPD and TEF in all DF and ECU tendons examined. There was a statistically significant difference in the proportion of TSH and TPD involvement between HS and subjects with RA (HS vs RA p<0.001). In HS, there was no difference in the presence of ultrasound abnormalities between age groups. CONCLUSIONS: Ultrasound-detected TSH and TPD abnormalities are rare in HS and can be regarded as markers of active inflammatory disease, especially in newly presenting RA.