Musculoskeletal ultrasound is an invaluable modality for imaging soft tissue injuries.
These include muscle, ligament and tendon tears, degeneration and inflammation, in addition to subcutaneous and intramuscular masses.
It is also possible to assess vascular structures and to confirm or exclude arterial disease and deep vein thrombosis.
In experienced hands, it is a reliable first line modality for defining the severity of disease and/or trauma.
It is, therefore, an important aid for planning correct management of the injury and estimating recovery time, which has a direct bearing on the “return to play” period, for both amateur and professional athletes.
Ultrasound is “real-time”, providing a dynamic greyscale image of soft tissue structures in motion.
The ability to visualise a structure moving through its range of motion gives it an advantage over MRI or CT scanning, however intra-articular structures cannot be visualised on ultrasound, and MRI and CT remain the gold standard for these injuries.
Ultrasound also has a role to play in imaging fractures, such as stress fractures, small avulsion fractures of the hands and feet, greater tuberosity fractures, as well as rib fractures, which may not be visualised on plain x-rays, due to superimposition of structures.
Although the cost of the examination can vary from practice to practice, a general rule of thumb is approximately 10% of the cost of an MRI scan.