The Advantages of Using Ultrasound

Joint and muscle pain are complaints that many patients suffer from on a daily basis. It is important to find the real source of the symptoms, so you can make the proper diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment.

X-Rays, CT Scans and MRI’s have been for the longest time the tests to evaluate musculoskeletal problems.

Recent advances in sonar and ultrasound technology have created a more functional and practical approach to evaluate joints, muscles, ligaments and even nerves. This technology is called musculoskeletal ultrasound.

Clinical evidence and research support using ultrasound as the first diagnostic test for numerous musculoskeletal conditions. Diagnostic ultrasound offers a number of important advantages compared to X-Ray, CT and MRI, in terms of safety and effectiveness. Musculoskeletal ultrasound simply uses sonic waves, and there is no exposure to radiation.

At the same time, diagnostic ultrasound is noninvasive and offers real-time imaging, allowing for examinations of structures at rest and in motion. This ability to capture the movement of musculoskeletal components, differentiates it from other imaging modalities, and can permit more accurate diagnoses.

For a variety of reasons, healthcare providers have gravitated toward more expensive imaging modalities over time. The use of such imaging modalities as CT and MRI, instead of lower-cost alternatives, such as ultrasound, may not ensure better outcomes, and also increases the cost to the healthcare system and your patients.

In 2009 alone, CT’s and MRI’s accounted for 95% of Medicare-allowed charges for all extremity imaging. Only 5% was for ultrasound, which is highly cost-effective and avoids the inherent risk of radiation exposure. Using a lower cost and safer approach to imaging, would make clinical sense for many conditions without compromising care. An article by Parker et al., published in 2008, indicates that the substitution of MSK ultrasound for MSK MRI, when appropriate, would lead to savings for Medicare of more than $6.9 billion in the period from 2006 to 2020.