Ultrasound is increasingly being used for musculoskeletal applications. Why is this the case and how can you and your patients benefit from this advancing modality? Read on to find out.
Used by practitioners in sports medicine, PM&R, rheumatology and orthopedics, musculoskeletal ultrasound is primarily used to diagnose pathology in tendons, nerves, muscles, ligaments and joints as well as to guide the needle in real-time during interventional procedures (Smith and Finnoff 64).
Advantages of using MSK Ultrasound Imaging
According to Smith and Finnoff, the advantages of using musculoskeletal ultrasound are:
• High-resolution soft tissue imaging
• Ability to image in real-time
• Facilitates dynamic examination of anatomic structures
• Can interact with the patient while imaging
• Minimally affected by metal artifact (ie, implants and hardware)
• Ability to guide procedures (eg, aspirations, injections)
• Enables rapid contralateral limb examination for comparison
• Relatively inexpensive
• Lacks radiation
• No known contraindications
Comparisons of other diagnostic modalities with MSK Ultrasound Imaging
When compared to other modalities, ultrasound is clearly the more appropriate choice. In most instances, when compared to most magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, ultrasound can deliver higher quality images, down to submillimeter detail of MSK parts (Kremkau 428).
In contrast with CT scans and X-rays, Smith and Finnoff state that musculoskeletal ultrasound can image soft tissue at higher resolutions allowing for safe and accurate needle injections and aspirations during interventional procedures. Moreover, the danger of radiation is absent when dealing with patients of child-bearing age (65).
In addition to its interventional uses, the scope in which ultrasound can be used for diagnostic applications is vast. Due to high image clarity as well as patient safety, ultrasound can help practitioners diagnose various forms of pathology including ligament and muscle sprains, joint effusions, tendon tears, tendinosis, and nerve entrapments (65).
Educational Resources for MSK Ultrasound Imaging
Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute offers a complete line of musculoskeletal ultrasound educational DVDs as well as introductory and advanced hands-on ultrasound courses. We invite you to take advantage of these opportunities in this steadily emerging field.
Smith, Finnoff. “Diagnostic and Interventional Musculoskeletal Ultrasound: Part 1. Fundamentals” Journal of American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1 (2009):64-75. Print.
Kremkau F. Diagnostic Ultrasound: Principles and Instruments. 6th ed.
Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2002:428