What is ultrasound?
Ultrasound is type of scan that uses sound above the human audible limit to image the body using a technique similar to sonar. It is painless and causes no known physical harm (which is why it is used on pregnant women to monitor unborn babies). Like an MRI scan it is used to image the soft tissues of the body that x-rays cannot image well. It can image the body in greater spatial detail than MRI and can image parts of the body whilst they are in motion to provide more information. Because of its ability to image moving objects, ultrasound can be used to guide injections into specific parts of the body with high precision for maximum benefit.
Can everyone have an ultrasound?
Yes. There are no known side effects of ultrasound. Some conditions in some parts of the body are not suitable for an ultrasound scan however – or ultrasound may not provide all the required information. In these cases other scans will be used in conjunction with ultrasound, or as an alternative.
How is an ultrasound performed?
Usually no preparation is required for sports imaging scans but, because the area being examined needs to be exposed, it is best to wear loose fitting clothes. The area being scanned is covered with a water soluble jelly and a transducer is passed over the area to produce pictures which are reviewed on the console. Sometimes the patient will be asked to move the area whilst it is under the transducer. It does not hurt, and the scan is usually completed within a few minutes. After the scan, the patient is free to go home and return to normal activities. If an injection has been performed, the performing doctor will provide advice for the next few days. A report is then made to the treating doctor.
Ultrasound of a shoulder joint (compare with MRI and CT images in the relevant pages). This type of scan is good for looking at muscles and tendons, but not so good for looking at bone. Although MRI is better for looking at some conditions of tendons and muscles, ultrasound can look at these structures whilst they are moving (which MRI cannot do easily) to gain more information.