Musculoskeletal Ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive diagnostic test that allows us to look at muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and their surrounding structures in real-time. It is safer and more sensitive than x-rays in detecting abnormalities, and less costly than MRI.
How Does it Work?
An ultrasound machine works similarly to sonar used on a ship. Sound waves are emitted; they hit an object and bounce back. A computer then interprets the sound waves that bounce back. In the case of an ultrasound machine, by measuring the sound waves that bounce back the machine can determine the size and shape of the object, including whether the object is solid or filled with fluid. Ultrasound is performed using a small transducer (probe) and a specific gel that is placed directly on the patient’s skin. The gel transmits high-frequency sound waves from the transducer through the body. The sound waves that bounce back are then collected by the transducer and converted into an image by the ultrasound machine. Unlike with x-rays, ultrasound does not use radiation. This makes it a very safe procedure frequently used by medical professionals.
We use this type of ultrasound to diagnose sprains, strains, tears, and other soft tissue conditions. We also use it to:
- Guide the injection to ensure accurate placement into the joint
- Detect inflammation in the joint
- Diagnose tendonitis and tendon rupture
A Musculoskeletal Ultrasound requires almost no preparation. It is recommended that patients wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing, as one might have to remove the clothing covering the extremity that will be examined. In some cases the patient will be asked to wear a gown.
A musculoskeletal ultrasound exam usually takes between 15 to 30 minutes. In some cases the procedure may take longer. After the procedure the patient may be asked to wait while the images are being reviewed.
The ultrasound technician will place the ultrasound gel on the patient’s skin and press the transducer against the part of the body that is being examined. The ultrasound machine is very responsive to motion so it is important to remain still during the procedure unless otherwise indicated.
A water soluble gel is applied on the skin during this procedure. The gel is easily wiped off from the skin, and in the rare case that it gets on your clothing, washed off from clothes with water.