Blog

Ultrasound: Not Just for Babies!

Posted on July 27, 2022 in Achilles Tendinitis, Foot/Ankle, Ankle Pain, Total Ankle Replacement, Lisfranc Injury, Minimally Invasive Surgery, Navicular Fracture, Primary Care Sports Medicine, Regenerative Medicine & Running by Dr. Joshua Hackel

Ultrasound: Not Just for Babies!

When most people hear the word ultrasound, images of a happy, expectant couple huddled around a black and white screen hoping to catch a glimpse of their baby for the first time come to mind. While this is accurate–and adorable to think about!–ultrasound actually has clinical applications far beyond obstetrics, and ultrasound machines are just as often found in the offices of sports medicine physicians. This advanced imaging modality can be used for the diagnosis, treatment and management fo a wide-variety of musculoskeletal conditions, and is quickly becoming the standard of care across the country. Furthermore, ultrasound offers a number of key advantages over traditional advanced imaging techniques like x-ray, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Ultrasound scanning, which is often called sonography, uses a transducer or probe and ultrasound gel to emit high-frequency sound waves into the body. The transducer collects the refracted sound waves as they “bounce” back off of structures within the body, and then a computer within the machine processes those waves into an image that is projected on the screen. This process takes microseconds, so ultrasound imaging is real-time and on-demand. Because ultrasound images are captured, processed and displayed in real-time, they allow a clinician to visualize the structures and movement of the musculoskeletal system, and can even display the flow of blood through the vessels within muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Applications of Ultrasound Imaging in Orthopaedics

Ultrasound machines, which can range in size from a cellphone to a small cabinet, use sound waves to visualize the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint spaces. They provide safe, painless, and real-time imaging to a clinician, without any harmful ionizing radiation or the need for uncomfortable positioning. Ultrasound imaging has both diagnostic and therapeutic uses in orthopaedics, making it a very versatile tool.

The primary use of ultrasound imaging in sports medicine is as a diagnostic tool. The ability to visualize the anatomical structures of a joint or extremity in real-time and under the physics of movement allow sports medicine physicians to more accurately diagnose soft tissue injuries. Ultrasound also excels at locating and identifying foreign bodies, as frequently happens in traumatic accidents. The procedure can be used to diagnose tendon, muscle, and ligament tears; sprains; effusions in the joint and bursae; nerve entrapments; and tumors, cysts or abscesses.

In addition to the diagnostic applications, ultrasound imaging is often used as an adjunct to minimally-invasive procedures. Whether a physician is performing an injection, orthobiologic/regenerative medicine procedure, or another minimally- or micro-invasive procedure, their need to visualize the anatomy of the treatment area is paramount. Ultrasound imaging allows a physician to do just that in a safe, painless, and cost-effective manner, and as such has been incorporated into the standard of care for a number of these procedures.

Advantages of Ultrasound

Ultrasound has a number of advantages over other advanced imaging modalities. As mentioned above, the fact that ultrasound imaging is on-demand and real-time lets a physician view the underlying anatomy both at rest and in motion, which allows for a more accurate diagnosis. Ultrasound imaging is also highly portable–some units fit in the palm of your hand–which allows it to be deployed virtually anywhere. It is also safe–so safe, in fact, that they routinely perform the procedure on pregnant women!–painless, and much faster than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. Finally, ultrasound imaging is a very cost-effective solution as it demands a fraction of the cost of other advanced imaging modalities. One study estimated that substituting ultrasound for MRI, when appropriate in treating musculoskeletal conditions, would save Medicare almost $7 billion in fifteen years!

If you are suffering from a musculoskeletal injury or condition, there is a good chance ultrasound imaging should be a part of your diagnosis and treatment plan. Seeking out a physician with advanced proficiency in ultrasound imaging could lead to safer, more affordable, and more accurate treatment. Dr. Hackel is among the leading ultrasound operators in the world, and he is called on frequently to teach courses across the country to share his knowledge.

Save or share this information:

Check out some of our related posts:

Dr. Sonya Ahmed to Cover US Olympic Team During the 2019 World Beach Games

Dr. Sonya Ahmed, a board-certified and fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon and Partner at the Nilssen Orthopedics Ankle and Foot Center, is proud to announce that she will provide orthopaedic and sports medicine coverage for the US Olympic Team at the ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019. The Games, which were originally slated to take place in San Diego, CA, will run from October 12-16 in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Ahmed is excited about the opportunity to once again provide team coverage on behalf of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Read More
10 Questions to Ask Your Personal Injury Specialist

Orthopedic injuries can cause pain that lasts a lifetime. While many people associate orthopedics injuries with old age or contact sports, they are just as often caused by traumatic injuries resulting from car wrecks and on-the-job accidents. Accidents can cause a variety of orthopedic injuries, ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening. While you may seem fine in the immediate aftermath, the surge of adrenaline generated by your body during an accident can actually cover up serious but invisible injuries. These hidden injuries can surface in the days or weeks following an accident, and, if left untreated, they can lead to years of pain and suffering.

Read More
Personal Injury: Benefits of Going to an Orthopedic Specialist Versus the ER

Personal injury is a legal term for any injury to the body or mind of an individual, as opposed to damage to property. Personal injury claims result from accidents that are the result of negligence or reckless conduct and are one of the most common legal complaints filed today. If you have been injured in an accident–at work, on the road, or otherwise–you should immediately seek medical treatment, even if you believe you are not injured. Some injuries can take days or weeks to manifest and can cause lifelong pain and suffering if left untreated.

Read More
Back to the Blog