Imaging of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage play an important role in accurately diagnosing sports-related injuries, arthritic conditions, degenerative processes, tumors, and tumor-like conditions by using multiple methods such as radiographs (X-rays), computed tomography (CT or Cat Scan), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Ultrasound (US).
Computed Tomography (CT)
Computed Tomography (CT) is an imaging tool that combines X-rays with computer technology to produce a more detailed cross sectional image of your body, which allows your doctor to see the size, shape and position of structures inside your body.
During a CT scan, you lie motionless on a table that slowly passes through the center of a large X-ray machine. An X-ray tube slowly rotates around you, taking pictures from all directions. A computer combines the images to produce a clear, two-dimensional view on a television screen. Before you get a scan, tell your doctor if you are pregnant.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a large magnet and radio waves to take pictures of your bones and soft tissues. Unlike CT scans, MRI works without radiation. An MRI may help your doctor to diagnose your torn knee ligaments and cartilage, torn rotator cuffs, herniated disks, hip and pelvic problems, and other conditions. During the scan, you lie on a table that slides inside a tunnel-shaped machine. Doing the scan may take 30 to 90 minutes and you must stay still. The scan is painless but the MRI machine can make a lot of noise.
Before you have an MRI, tell your doctor if you
- are pregnant,
- have any implants, metal clips, or metal objects inside your body, or
- have electronic devices in your body, such as a cardiac pacemaker.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves that echo off the body, which creates a picture to view the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and other organs. Unlike X-rays, ultrasound does not involve exposure to radiation. During an ultrasound test, a clear jelly is applied to the skin. The technician moves a device called a transducer over the clear jelly. The transducer sends out sound waves, which bounce off the tissues inside your body and it also captures the waves that bounce back to form images. Ultrasound is a valuable tool for shoulder assessment, specifically the rotator cuff and biceps tendon.
X-rays (radiographs) are the most common and widely used diagnostic imaging technique. X-ray technology uses electromagnetic radiation to make images. The part of your body being pictured is positioned between the X-ray and photographic film. Bones, tumors and other dense matter appear white or light because they absorb the radiation. Less dense soft tissues and breaks in bone let radiation pass through, making these parts look darker on the X-ray film. The level of radiation exposure from X-rays is not harmful, but your doctor will take special precautions if you are pregnant.