What to Expect
Unlike x-rays and CT scans, there is no radiation associated with the use of diagnostic ultrasound, which is safer both for the patient and the physician. Unlike MRI scans, there is no enclosed machine utilized, and patients are either lying on the exam table or seated in a chair for testing. Additionally, dynamic testing allowing evaluation of the involved body part during motion is a feature not otherwise available with other types of imaging.
This testing modality shows exquisitely detailed images of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursae, joint capsules including joint effusions (fluid collections), peripheral nerves, scar tissue, and the articular cartilage surface of large and small joint. It is commonly utilized for needle guidance for the aspiration (drainage) or injection of large and small joints to enhance accuracy and outcome.
During the examination, you will feel some pressure where the transducer, the device which transmits the images to a video monitor, is held against your skin and moved in different directions, after the application of a topical gel, which serves as a coupling agent to allow the images to be obtained. This gel is non-allergenic and is wiped off the skin at the end of examination, and any residue can be washed off your skin or clothes with soap and water.
Either during or at the end of the examination, you may be shown either still images or a video clip which was recorded during your examination, and certain images may be printed to be placed in your file, or for you to bring to a referring or consulting physician to assist in your further treatment.
Depending upon the body part to be examined, you may only need to roll up a shirt sleeve or a pant leg, otherwise you will disrobe to expose the necessary body part by donning a patient gown. There are no special medication instructions pre-testing, but those individuals who have implantable medical devices, such as cardiac pacemakers or defibrillators, spinal cord stimulators, or others must ensure that you make this known in advance of testing.
There are no special precautions or limitations after MSK ultrasound testing, if no injection has been performed.