Musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSK US) is a completely safe, and uses sound waves to create an image. Ultrasound can be used to image any patient presenting with a complaint arising within the soft tissues or joints. Any patient can have an ultrasound evaluation, including those who are confined to a wheelchair or cannot have an MRI.
Studies have shown the ultrasound can be as sensitive as MRI for diagnosing rotator cuff tears and abnormalities of the biceps tendon, and it is non-invasive, much faster and cost effective to perform.
Ultrasound provides the additional benefit of the ability to perform dynamic imaging. During the examination, the rheumatologist can ask the patient to perform the maneuvers that produce the pain and document exactly what is happening. Ultrasound is fast and easy to do, and the image can be taken exactly where the patient says it hurts.
Ultrasound is also an excellent method for guiding therapeutic procedures. Under direct ultrasound guidance, physicians can directly place a needle into a joint, bursa or tendon sheath to remove fluid or inject medication exactly where it needs to go, with image documentation.