About Musculoskeletal Ultrasound
Musculoskeletal ultrasound is a painless and safe way to look through the skin at the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the body. Ultrasound can also see the surface of bones and some cartilage surfaces. Although it is an excellent way to image the body, ultrasound cannot see through bones.
Ultrasound does not use harmful ionizing radiation like x-rays or CT scans. Diagnostic ultrasound has many advantages over other imaging technologies, including MRIs. Ultrasound can be used to view a body part while it is moving or under tension — this is called a dynamic ultrasound exam. Also, ultrasound can rapidly compare an injured body part to the area on the other side of the body. Ultrasound can focus in on the exact area where a person hurts, and studies show it is as good as MRI for assessing many types of injuries.
What to Expect
During an ultrasound exam, many different images of an injured joint or area are recorded. You will be given instructions on how to position your body.
Some water-based, non- toxic, non-staining ultrasound gel will be placed on the skin in the area to be scanned. The gel will be wiped off once the scan is complete.
An ultrasound probe, called a transducer, will be placed on your skin. The transducer has over 100 small piezo-electric crystals in it that send out faint sounds waves and then record the returning sound echoes from inside your body. The computer in the ultrasound machine interprets the returning sound echoes and forms the image on the ultrasound machine viewing screen. Flow within blood vessels can be seen using Doppler ultrasound.
If you have questions about what is being viewed on the screen, just ask. There is no need to do any special preparation. If the clothing you are wearing gets in the way, we will give you a gown or some shorts to put on.
There are no special instructions for after an ultrasound exam. Your physician will discuss the findings with you during and after the exam. The findings from the ultrasound exam will help guide the options for the treatment plan.
In some types of injuries, your physician may recommend a diagnostic ultrasound-guided injection of a small amount of a numbing medicine (lidocaine). Many of us have old injuries which do not cause us any pain, and just because something is seen on any medical imaging study does not necessarily mean it is causing your pain. An ultrasound diagnostic injection of a small amount of lidocaine can help confirm that the injury identified by ultrasound is the same one that is causing your pain.
Special thanks to Dr. Sean Mulvaney of ROSM Annapolis.