What is MSK Ultrasound?
Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to produce pictures of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints throughout the body. It is used to help diagnose sprains, strains, tears, and other soft tissue conditions. Ultrasound is safe, noninvasive, and does not use ionizing radiation.
What are Some Common Uses of the Procedure?
Ultrasound images are typically used to help diagnose:
- Tendon tears, or tendinitis of the rotator cuff in the shoulder, Achilles tendon in the ankle and other tendons throughout the body.
- Muscle tears, masses or fluid collections.
- Ligament sprains or tears.
- Inflammation or fluid (effusions) within the bursae and joints.
- Early changes of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Nerve entrapments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Benign and malignant soft tissue tumors.
- Ganglion cysts.
- Foreign bodies in the soft tissues (such as splinters or glass).
- Dislocations of the hip in infants.
- Fluid in a painful hip joint in children.
- Neck muscle abnormalities in infants with torticollis (neck twisting).
- Soft tissue masses (lumps/bumps) in children.
How Should I Prepare?
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You may need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined. You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Ultrasound imaging is based on the same principles involved in the sonar used by bats, ships and fishermen. When a sound wave strikes an object, it bounces back, or echoes. By measuring these echo waves, it is possible to determine how far away the object is as well as the object’s size, shape and consistency (whether the object is solid or filled with fluid).
In medicine, ultrasound is used to detect changes in appearance, size or contour of organs, tissues, and vessels or to detect abnormal masses, such as tumors.
In an ultrasound examination, a transducer both sends the sound waves into the body and receives the echoing waves. When the transducer is pressed against the skin, it directs small pulses of inaudible, high-frequency sound waves into the body. As the sound waves bounce off internal organs, fluids and tissues, the sensitive receiver in the transducer records tiny changes in the sound’s pitch and direction. These signature waves are instantly measured and displayed by a computer, which in turn creates a real-time picture on the monitor. One or more frames of the moving pictures are typically captured as still images. Short video loops of the images may also be saved.