What is diagnostic ultrasound?
Diagnostic ultrasound or musculoskeletal ultrasound is a non-invasive test used to evaluate the soft-tissues (tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles, etc.) of the foot and ankle. It is similar to sonar used on submarines by the military and fetal ultrasound used by OB-GYN doctors to evaluate the developing baby. In experienced hands, the images and information obtained from the ultrasound can provide as much information as much more expensive and time-consuming tests such as MRI and CT-Scans.
What is involved?
Diagnostic ultrasound is quick and painless. The entire process can usually be completed during your regular office visit and involves simply placing some gel over the areas to be inspected and using a small probe to explore the tissues. Since the ultrasound waves are harmless (otherwise they would not be used on developing babies) this test never causes any pain at all.
What is diagnostic ultrasound used for?
We use this test to evaluate and document problems such as tendonitis, heel pain, pinched nerves and neuromas, puncture wounds caused by stepping on glass or wood, and deep infections in the foot and ankle regions.
We utilize diagnostic ultrasound to visualize soft tissue problems that cannot be seen on x-ray, generally prior to ordering an MRI.
What is Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging?
Ultrasound imaging is the use of sound waves to visualize the body. An ultrasound image is very effective way to examine the musculoskeletal system of the body to detect problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and soft tissue. Ultrasound images occur in real time, so they can often show movement, function and anatomy, as well as enable our doctors to diagnose a variety of conditions and assess damage after an injury. Ultrasound is very safe and does not involve ionizing radiation.
What can be diagnosed with ultrasound?
Ultrasound images can be useful in diagnosing:
- Plantar fasciitis, plantar fibroma, and Tear of plantar fascia
- Achilles tendontendonitis or rupture
- Posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction or rupture
- Bone injuries-fractures-stress fractures
- Ankle sprains- strains
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis
- Cystic masses
- Rheumatoid arthritis- capsular erosion- nodules
- Foreign bodies – glass or wood
What procedures can the ultrasound be used for?
Because the structures of the foot and ankle can often be small, Ultrasound can be used to precisely guide a needle when injections. Ultrasound guided injections allow for such precise placement of medication that a lower dose of the medication is may often be used. Some areas where we use guided injections include:
What are the risks and benefits?
- Ultrasound scanning is noninvasive and painless
- Ultrasound is much less expensive than MRI, CT scan or bone scans
- Unlike x-rays, ultrasound imaging uses no radiation
- Ultrasound provides real-time imaging, making it a great tool for guiding injections or aspirations of fluid in joints or elsewhere. This allows our doctors to place injections more precisely in order to achieve better outcomes and avoid potential complications.
- Unlike the magnetic field of MRI units, ultrasound is not affected by cardiac pacemakers or implants within the body.
- Ultrasound may actually have advantages over MRI in seeing tendon structure, which is better appreciated by ultrasound than MRI at a fraction of the cost.
- For diagnostic ultrasound there are no known harmful effects on humans.
What are the limitations of ultrasound imaging?
Ultrasound does not penetrate bone well, so only the outer surface of bone can be visualized.