What’s something both fishermen and sports medicine have in common? Believe it or not, they both utilize ultrasound to get the job done. While submarines and boats have been employing the use of ultrasound throughout the 20th century to locate fish and animals in the water, its use in medicine only became popularized in the 1950s. As non-operative orthopedic physicians, we readily use it in our practice as an advanced means of both diagnosing and treating patients. 

Musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSK-US) has gained widespread acceptance in the healthcare community due to the many advantages it has over other imaging technology. It is non-invasive and generates clear images of various parts of the human body by simply employing sound waves. Couple this with the fact that ultrasound doesn’t generate ionizing radiation (as used in X-rays) and you have an incredibly safe imaging option for patients. 

MSK-US’s ability to render dynamic visualization is another striking advantage. Since images are captured in real time, the ultrasound can portray the structure and movement of muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, nerves and bones. It can also be performed in the comfort of the doctor’s office rather than referring patients to an external location which makes it highly convenient, cost effective and timely for both practitioners and patients. 

Ultrasound also can be used to guide injections as it allows practitioners to visualize the needle in real time to pinpoint the desired location. This substantially enhances accuracy in delivering corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid (e.g. Euflexxa and Hymovis), or orthobiologics such as PRP (platelet-rich plasma) and cell therapy. Due to the precise visualization of the needle, ultrasound-guided injections can be used in a diagnostic manner to determine which structure is generating the patient’s pain when the cause is unknown. Overall, this precise method assures that the medication is being accurately delivered to the desired site as the physician can observe the medicine diffusing to the intended target; a phenomenon “blind injections” (i.e. palpation guided) simply cannot do.

We are merely scratching the surface on the diagnostic and therapeutic benefits of this economically efficient, safe and portable medical device. The advent of MSK-US has revolutionized the nature of the orthopedic medical field primarily because of its role in guiding the needle during injections and other minimally invasive procedures. 

If you are struggling with an acute or chronic ailment, ask your health care provider if in-office ultrasound is an option for you.

Dr. Sickinger is with the Advanced Center for Sports & Musculoskeletal Medicine. For more information, contact their Palm Desert office at (760) 636.1067 or the San Clemente office at (949) 388.1060, or visit www.sportsandMSKmedicine.com.

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