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Ultrasound: What to Expect
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is This Exam Done?
Musculoskeletal ultrasounds can be used to evaluate muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues throughout the body. It is best at assessing superficial and small structures. Other imaging modalities like CT and MRI are better at evaluating deeper structures and bones. Ultrasound allows for a dynamic evaluation during motion. It is often used as an initial cross-section evaluation or an alternative option for patients who might have a contraindication for an MRI.
How Does it Work?
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the body’s tissues, structures, and blood flow. A transducer/probe and ultrasound gel work in combination to absorb the reflected sound waves to produce images on the monitor.
What Will Happen During the Exam?
Warm, water-based gel will be applied to the ultrasound transducer or directly on the skin. The transducer will be moved around to obtain clear images of the underlying structures for the physician to interpret. You may be asked to move into different positions.
The procedure typically lasts for 30 minutes, but the duration varies depending on the structure being examined.
How Should I Prepare?
- Wear Loose fitting clothing at the site of exam.
- Before the test is administered, you may be asked to change into a gown.
- Unless otherwise instructed, you do not have to fast or change your medication routine for this examination.
What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The benefits of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound:
- Ultrasound images can be shown in real time as they happen
- Aside from the applied pressure with the probe, the exam is painless
- No ionizing radiation is used for this procedure
- Claustrophobic individuals may see this as a reasonable alternative to MRI
- Individuals unable to have an MRI performed because of pacemakers or metal fragments in the body are able to have ultrasounds
Risks you should be aware of:
- There are no known risks from ultrasound
- Ultrasound may not provide a complete assessment of deep structures or bones and you may need additional imaging by other modalities
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