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Ultrasound imaging—sound option
Injury rehabilitation, like many other areas of healthcare, is very often a cost and inconvenience that is avoided until it cannot be avoided anymore. It is a very basic behaviour pattern of humans which is why it is important for those in the medical field, to always provide the best care at each and every visit, ever sensitive to the time and cost factor that dictates that person’s ability to allow themselves a better quality of life.
Most people are familiar with magnetic resonance imaging, more conveniently referred to as an MRI. It is an investigative tool used to make pictures of internal organs and structures via a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to see what is happening inside the body. It is a very costly procedure although there are some health insurance policies that honour claims quite nicely on this $4,000 cost.
Today, I want to mention a tool that has increased in popularity significantly over the last decade, that allows us to see beyond the surface tissues of the body. A tool that is very helpful and hugely complimentary to a thorough clinical evaluation while remaining very economical in terms of both time and money. I am referring to diagnostic ultrasound or ultrasound imaging, and it is becoming more commonly used across a host of specialties and subspecialties in medicine and healthcare.
Without the use of radiation, this modality when applied by a trained technician or MD has been found to be extremely helpful in reducing the chances of over- or under-diagnosing. A more accurate diagnosis creates a clearer path for remedy and realistic outcomes. It helps to make invasive procedures faster and safer.
The convenience, cost and comparable image quality is moving this tool more and more to the forefront of standard tools in various specialties of medical facilities. In the sports medicine industry, ultrasound imaging has made a tremendous impact on understanding the exact nature and extent of injury that may exist in the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. For example, about a decade ago sportsman hernias were a condition seen to be uncommon. With the use of ultrasound imaging however, that perception has changed. This diagnosis is not as uncommon as it was once considered to be and I can appreciate how it may have happened in years before that an injury may have been misdiagnosed as a chronic groin injury with secondary referring pain patterns, when in actuality it may have been a sportsman hernia. So far, I am also finding this injury to be more common in sports of a particular nature that stress the body in a particular way. In my field, recognising these patterns and understanding what it means contributes a lot to one’s professional development.
Ultrasound imaging, as insightful and discerning as it is, does not require a person to have to go to a special facility and take precautionary steps to have it done on them. It is conveniently available through portable devices, literally anywhere. From bigger set-ups in the Olympic Village polyclinic to physical rehabilitation facilities in Trinidad, doctors have invested in these units to allow themselves the ability to explore their patient’s conditions further and in so-doing, provide the best care possible, within their means.
Providing information on tissue damage from mild inflammation, to measuring the size of a small tear, to identifying whether there is bleeding in the area not visible on the skin’s surface, this tool improves precision. It can also tell whether there is bruising to soft tissue or the bone’s surface tissue. Swelling, tissue fibers and patterns which indicate healing or scarring can all be seen using ultrasound imaging.
The limitation of ultrasound imaging however, is the inability of its waves to penetrate bone, air or gas and they can only see about four inches behind the skin surface. Still, there remains a vast number of ways that ultrasound imaging is hugely beneficial and at the very least will indicate whether the need for further investigation with an MRI is in fact warranted.
A thorough clinical assessment can lead to a correct diagnosis but the ultrasound image can provide even more detail and the more the nature of the injury is understood, the better the patient can be helped, possibly saving time and money in other areas. At a small fraction of the cost of an MRI with immediate feedback it is no wonder that this tool is commonly applied in sports medicine.
Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association of the USA. She has 11 years of experience rehabilitating athletes and members of the active population from injury to full play. She can be reached at Pulse Performance Ltd., located at #17 Henry Pierre St., St. James. Tel: 221-2437.