Musculoskeletal ultrasound, or MSK ultrasound, is a diagnostic imaging technique that can provide clear, detailed images of joints and other components of the musculoskeletal system to determine the causes of pain and other symptoms as well as aid in diagnosis and treatment of an array of diseases. Ultrasound uses sound waves rather than radiation to “see” inside the body, sending images to a computer where they can be viewed and interpreted by the doctor. Performed right in the office, ultrasound can provide an immediate diagnosis so treatment can begin right away, often in the same visit.
Ultrasound is often performed in a slightly darkened room to make it easier to see the images as they appear on the computer screen. During the test, you'll lie on an exam table and a water-based gel will be applied to the skin over the area to be evaluated. The gel helps the ultrasound hand piece (or transducer) glide more smoothly over your skin and also aids in transmission of the ultrasound energy. The hand piece will be passed over your skin, sometimes applying pressure to ensure the best and clearest images are captured. Once the test is complete, the gel will be wiped away. Most ultrasounds take no more than 20 to 30 minutes to perform.
Many types of musculoskeletal conditions, including joint pain and inflammation, can be treated with injections of anesthetics and anti-inflammatory medication administered in or near the joint space. To ensure targeted delivery, ultrasound can be used to guide the needle placement so delivery of medicine or aspiration of joint fluid can be performed with great precision for less discomfort and optimal end results.
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