Musculoskeletal ultrasound uses sound waves to painlessly obtain images of the soft tissue comprising the musculoskeletal system, including ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage, and to gain an understanding of joint symptoms and disorders without the need for invasive exploratory surgery.
Ultrasounds are performed in darkened rooms to make it easier for the technician to view the images on a monitor as the images are being made. In most cases, you'll lie down on an exam table and a gel will be applied to the skin over the area to be imaged. A handheld device called a transducer will be moved over your skin's surface, emitting the sound waves painlessly through your skin to gather images. The transducer is connected to the ultrasound machine and monitor, enabling the technician to view the images as they're being produced. At some points during your exam, the transducer may be pressed firmly into your skin, and you may have some momentary minor discomfort, especially if the area is inflamed. Depending on what part of your body is being evaluated, you may be asked to hold your breath or to move into different positions so the transducer can obtain images from different angles. Most ultrasounds take no more than a half hour to perform, and you can return to your regular activities as soon as your exam is complete.
No; in fact, ultrasounds are among the safest types of imaging procedures. Ultrasounds use no x-rays or ionizing radiation, instead relying on sound waves that “bounce off” internal structures and tissues, sending signals that can be interpreted by special computer software to create detailed images of organs, tissues and processes inside your body. Ultrasounds are so safe, they're routinely used on pregnant women to monitor the development of the fetus.
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