Ultrasound images are typically used to help diagnose:
- tendon tears, or tendinitis of the rotator cuff in the shoulder, Achilles tendon in the ankle and other tendons throughout the body.
- muscle tears, masses or fluid collections. ligament sprains or tears. inflammation or fluid (effusions) within the bursae and joints.
- early changes of rheumatoid arthritis.
- nerve entrapments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- benign and malignant soft tissue tumors.
- ganglion cysts.
- foreign bodies in the soft tissues (such as splinters or glass).
- Most ultrasound scanning is non-invasive (no needles or injections).
- Occasionally, an ultrasound exam may be temporarily uncomfortable, but it is almost never painful.
- Ultrasound is widely available, easy-to-use and less expensive than other imaging methods.
- Ultrasound imaging is extremely safe and does not use any ionizing radiation.
- Ultrasound scanning gives a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-ray images.
- Ultrasound provides real-time imaging, making it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as injections, needle biopsies, and fluid aspiration.
- Patients with cardiac pacemakers and certain types of metallic implants or fragments in the body cannot be safely exposed to the strong magnetic field required for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); however, patients can safely receive ultrasound imaging.
- Ultrasound is also an excellent alternative to MRI for claustrophobic patients.
- Compared to MRI, ultrasound may provide greater internal detail when assessing soft tissue structures such as tendons and nerves.
- Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the movement of a soft tissue structure such as a tendon, joint or an extremity.
For standard diagnostic ultrasound, there are no known harmful effects on humans.