Ultrasound imaging is a safe and standard procedure that has been used for decades, but is becoming more widely available. This noninvasive approach helps physicians and physiatrists diagnose and treat medical conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders. In addition to a clinical exam, using ultrasound imaging to help diagnose issues is a low-cost, reliable, and painless medical procedure that can aid in managing musculoskeletal disorders. Here at New Heights Therapy, we’re dedicated to aiding our patients and that begins with accurate, reliable diagnoses. Here’s how ultrasound imaging helps us do just that and more!
How Does Ultrasound Imaging Work?
An ultrasound imaging device is made up of a transducer, a transmitter, a receiver, a monitor display, and often a digital storage medium for collecting the images or videos. Ultrasound imaging involves the use of a transducer and ultrasound gel to collect high-frequency sound waves, which travel through the body and encounter acoustic interfaces. These interactions are then reflected back to the transducer and finally formed into images by use of a computer. These images can show the structure and movement of the internal organs as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.
What Can Ultrasound Imaging Help Diagnose?
While no single imaging method can diagnose all musculoskeletal disorders, ultrasound imaging can aid physiatrists in the first steps of diagnosing a variety of problems, including but not limited to the following:
- Tendon tears or tendonitis of the rotator cuff, patellar tendon, Achilles tendon, and more
- Ligament sprains or tears
- Masses or fluid collections and inflammation or effusions in the joints
- Nerve entrapments, including carpal/tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Chronic or acute muscle injury
What are the Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasound Imaging?
The benefits of using ultrasound imaging in diagnosing musculoskeletal disorders are plentiful.
- Ultrasound examinations do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays), so patients are not exposed to any radiation.
- An ultrasound exam is noninvasive and not painful to patients, and patient comfort is of the utmost importance to any physical therapist carrying out the exam.
- The procedure yields high-resolution imaging, which in some cases is even more productive than MRI or CT in assessing soft tissue structures (tendons and nerves).
- Ultrasound imaging is a faster procedure than taking an MRI and allows for quicker, real-time examinations.
As with all procedures, there are a few limitations to ultrasound imaging, such as its inability to penetrate bone/intra-articular structures or deeper structures inside some patients. However, ultrasound imaging is a great procedure for physical therapists in treating their patients due to its ability to diagnose musculoskeletal disorders.
How Can Physical Therapists Use Ultrasound Imaging?
With ultrasound imaging becoming more readily available for physical therapists to use in helping their patients, it is becoming very common in the practice of physical therapy. That said, some special training is required for physiatrists to incorporate it into their practice. Not all ultrasonographic transducers yield high enough resolution for musculoskeletal evaluation, and not all physical therapists or physicians are as familiar with specialized techniques necessary for this type of imaging. At New Heights Therapy, we’re dedicated to ensuring physical therapists are as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to diagnosing patients. Our upcoming two-day seminar on medical imaging will cover the basics of ultrasound imaging for local physical therapists interested in this innovative practice.
Ultrasound Imaging of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Portland OR and Vancouver WA
Seeing Patients in the following Portland and Vancouver areas: