Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

Musculoskeletal ultrasound is a fast, noninvasive, bedside diagnostic imaging tests used in rheumatology offices. 

Learn how Southwest Florida Rheumatology uses Musculoskeletal (MSK) point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) to increase diagnostic accuracy, with real-time clinical interpretation and integration of the imaging results.

What is a Musculoskeletal Ultrasound (MSUS)?

What’s special about the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound is that it can look into a patient’s joints – producing high-resolution imaging results on the same day of the visit, by the bedside. 

Thus, MSUS has been embraced as a diagnostic tool for a variety of rheumatologic diseases for more than 30 years. 

What conditions can be detected with an MSUS?

The American College of Rheumatology illustrated clinical scenarios where MSUS can be used to diagnose a variety of rheumatology conditions, including tendonitis, bursitis, and different types of arthritis. 

MSUS can also be used to elucidate pain and swelling, undiagnosed arthritis, and evaluate persistent inflammation or ongoing disease activity upon diagnosis. 

When would a rheumatologist order an ultrasound?

If any patient presents with pain due to arthritis or similar conditions, or when a patient reports spontaneous joint swelling in certain joints, with or without inflammation, a rheumatologist may decide to do this procedure.

It can also be used when depositing steroids, specifically in injecting steroids into an inflamed joint, for example, the knee. 

When an injected patient does not exhibit respond to an initial joint injection (initially these can be done without ultrasound guidance), the ultrasound can then be used to correctly access the joint and direct the injections on the targeted areas.

How is an ultrasound-guided injection performed?

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

Before the actual procedure, the doctor themselves or an ultrasound technician would instruct the patient to lie down or sit, depending on the targeted area.

Once settled, a layer of sterile gel is lathered on the skin near the targeted area, and on the transducer.

This gel helps transmit and receive inaudible high-frequency sound waves, while the probe is placed against the skin, creating a sonogram – the virtual image produced by the examination.

The same principle applies when guiding the needle in a significantly more accurate drug administration, hence resulting in about a 40% reduction in procedural pain and improved functioning of the joint. 

What are the benefits and risks?

Some of the advantages of MSUS over other methods include its relative ease of use, accessibility, hence improving the patient’s experience and satisfaction of bedside ultrasound. 

MSUS also has the capacity to quickly assess multiple areas, producing images in real time, compared to either X-ray, CT, or MRI.

It does not require an injection or other invasive process, or a specialized room, unlike with MRI which can require getting an injection of a contrast agent, and confinement in an enclosed space, which can result in experiencing claustrophobia during MRI.

Another major benefit is that MSUS can be performed repeatedly without the risk of radiation exposure that is associated with X-rays or CT scans.

Is there a difference between an ultrasound and other diagnostic methods (MRI or X-ray)?

Difference Musculoskeletal Ultrasound MRI XRay

The ultrasound is the absolute same technology that a patient would use when getting an ultrasound. 

For example, if they were in a gynecologist's office to detect a baby’s heartbeat, or for example, an echocardiogram, which is 2D Doppler ultrasound, in a cardiologist’s office.

That is actually the same technology, but in a rheumatology office, it is used for the joints, what Dr. Reddy describes as “...a really elegant, simple option. It's just significantly less radiation than an X-ray and not a piece of huge equipment like an MRI.”

How do I prepare for the ultrasound?

Ultrasound is generally a swift, painless, non-invasive procedure, and there are very minimal preparations needed before your appointment, such as: leaving your jewelry at home as much as possible, wearing loose or comfortable clothing. 

Talking to our doctors at Southwest Florida Rheumatology will make sure you are well-prepared and at ease for your ultrasound experience.

Why choose SWFLR for your ultrasound procedure?

Southwest Florida Rheumatology uses Musculoskeletal (MSK) point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) to increase diagnostic accuracy, with real-time clinical interpretation and integration of the imaging results.

Our care center MSUS for the early detection of joint inflammation, assessing ongoing disease activity, and monitoring therapeutic responses. 

Talk to our rheumatologists or message us online to schedule your Musculoskeletal Ultrasound.

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