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Ultrasound imaging uses high frequency sound waves transmitted through a handheld device to examine your organs, tissues, and blood vessels. X-ray imaging uses a small amount of radiation, passing it through a body part, to see your bones and the spaces between them. One looks at the soft tissues of your body and the other looks at the hard parts, but they are often used together to diagnose a problem.
A musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound is a specialized exam that looks specifically at your muscles and joints. MSK ultrasound technologists have special training in looking at muscles, some ligaments, nerves, and tendons. A radiologist will interpret these images to determine if they are normal or not.
Anyone can have an MSK ultrasound. These exams aren’t limited to athletes or young people; if you have pain or a concern with your joints or muscles, an MSK ultrasound may be appropriate.
An MSK ultrasound may help determine the source of your muscle or joint symptoms. For example, if you have a lump that you are concerned about, we will examine if it’s fluid-filled or solid, where it’s located, and if it’s attached to anything. Each answer can lead to the appropriate treatment, or to further investigation.
If an injury to your tendon or muscle is suspected, we can see if it’s intact or torn. Ultrasound can help determine the extent of the injury, sometimes clarify if surgery is indicated, and assess how well these injuries are healing.
Some common diagnoses that may be evaluated by an MSK ultrasound include:
Ultrasound can allow the technologist and radiologist to watch your anatomy move in real time, such as examining how tendons move around joints, and if a joint separates when stressed. Plus, as the patient, you can show us exactly where you feel your symptoms, so we can pinpoint your area of concern at the time of imaging.
Ultrasound doesn’t use radiation, so it can be safely performed on all patients including pregnant women and babies. Compared to other types of imaging, it is also very portable.
Mayfair Diagnostics has 12 locations across Calgary which provide ultrasound services, as well as one in Cochrane and one in Regina. For more information about the different types of ultrasound exams and what to expect during your exam, please visit our services page.
Petscavage-Thomas, J. (2014) “Clinical applications of dynamic functional musculoskeletal ultrasound.” Penn State Hershey Medical Center. www.dovepress.com. Accessed October 3, 2022.
Wang, Q., et al. (2017) “Quantitative Analysis of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound: Techniques and Clinical Applications.” Biomed Research International. Accessed October 3, 2022.