Ultrasound – Why We Scan When We Scan?

While ultrasound has been around since the mid 1950’s, it has only become detailed enough for foot and ankle scanning in the last 6 or 7 years. And when I say good enough, I mean that the detail of the machines used to be very basic and grainy! Ultrasound machines started out as large tubs of water that patients had to lie in. But technology has come so far in the last 50 years. Nowadays, ultrasound machines are incredible. We can follow a tiny nerve from your spine all the way to your fingertip! Structures as small as 0.1mm can be appreciated. And so the effectiveness and reliability of ultrasound has made it an imaging tool that even the best orthopaedic surgeons in the world are now using regularly.

Ultrasound is an imaging modality that takes pictures of soft tissue structures.

This means it is best for imaging:

  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels

Ultrasound to rule out inflammation and infection

When used at the Wollongong Foot and Ankle Centre, Dr Dares relies upon ultrasound to rule out inflammation and infection post-surgery. With the use of ultrasound, we can also target the most painful site of a recent injury and see what the cause is. For example, with a bad ankle sprain or ‘inversion injury’, Dr Dares will use the images from the onsite ultrasound machine to check if the essential ligaments at the outside of the injured ankle are torn or not. This diagnosis is an essential step in the treatment of ankle injuries!

Finding small stress fractures and bone lesions

Although ultrasound was not designed with the imaging of bony structures in mind, it is actually an excellent tool in finding small stress fractures and bone lesions. While x-ray is always the main port of call for diagnosing a fracture or bone injury, ultrasound can sometimes be more sensitive to tiny bony fractures than x-ray. It is not unusual for an x-ray to miss a recent fracture, and for ultrasound to find it! One of the best parts of ultrasound is that a skilled sonographer can pinpoint the exact location of patients pain to expertly target the cause.

Ultrasound has become increasingly reliable over the last few years. The structures of the foot and ankle are minute and extremely complicated. With the use of a great quality ultrasound machine and a skilled sonographer, even the best foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons have come to appreciate the benefits of having an ultrasound machine onsite at their clinics!