There are many reasons for examining the musculoskeletal system with ultrasound. These are among the more common reasons:
An ultrasound examination might not provide all the information your doctor needs. In those cases, additional studies could be required.
There are no special preparations for a musculoskeletal ultrasound examination.
You will be instructed to lie or sit on an examining table. A small device called a transducer is placed on the skin surface after a gel is applied to your skin to provide better contact. The gel can feel cool and could leave a dry white powder on your clothes, so you might want to wear easily washable clothing. A paper or cloth gown will be provided if necessary. The room is usually darkened during the examination so the examiner can see a monitor screen more clearly.
There is no pain involved in a musculoskeletal ultrasound examination, unless the examiner pushes on a sore spot with the transducer. Nevertheless, this discomfort is usually very tolerable and no worse than a standard physical examination.
The length of time for the examination varies with the complexity of the exam and the specific reasons for which it was requested. A general guideline is between 30 and 60 minutes. After the exam, you may safely drive home and eat and drink normally.
In most cases a radiologist or a sonographer (a professional trained in ultrasound examinations) will examine you. He or she obtains and records a series of images. The doctor then reviews the images and will issue an official interpretation. This interpretation may not be available immediately after you have your exam. A musculoskeletal ultrasound is a highly interactive study involving the radiologist, the technologist and the patient. The radiologist can work with the patient in a way not possible during MRI or CT imaging, communicating and gaining functional information that might not otherwise be available.