The Nerve of Ultrasound

I’m a fan of ultrasound. In the past, ultrasound has been seen as the less attractive cousin of the other imaging modalities, CT and MRI. Maybe that’s why I champion it so much, because I can’t help but root for the underdog! Either way, I am always eager to find ways to incorporate ultrasound in my practice as a musculoskeletal radiologist. It is fast, convenient Ultrasound and MRI of Nerveand inexpensive, and patients tend to find the experience less daunting than being in a metal tube.

Now, I think it is high time that ultrasound take a place on the front lines of nerve imaging. We’ve made several advances in the imaging of nerves under ultrasound; nerves have a characteristic appearance on ultrasound and it is often used for image guidance in nerve blocks. In my practice, we use ultrasound to diagnose and treat nerve pathology. However, a lot of nerve imaging is still primarily done via MRI. This is probably because much of the research in nerve imaging has been done in MRI. Additionally, many clinicians are not aware of the diagnostic capabilities of high resolution ultrasound in nerve imaging. I’m hoping to change that!

Funded by a generous grant from the AIUM’s Endowment for Education and Research, my colleagues and I are hoping to compare the utility of ultrasound in nerve imaging to MRI. What we hope to confirm is that ultrasound has similar diagnostic capabilities to MRI in the imaging of neuropathy. In addition, we plan to use ultrasound’s capability for dynamic imaging to produce new methods for evaluation of the brachial plexus and peripheral nerves. This grant will fund one of the largest volume studies of ultrasound in nerve imaging, which will in turn help to further expand the role of one of the most valuable imaging modalities we have. So, hopefully soon, this “underdog” will have its day.

In what other areas is ultrasound emerging from its “underdog” label? Where can we use Ultrasound First? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Ogonna Kenechi “Kenny” Nwawka, MD is the assistant attending radiologist in the Hospital for Special Surgery as well as assistant professor of radiology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Dr. Nwawka’s research project is being funded by a $50,000 grant from the Endowment for Education and Research. To help support these and other projects, consider donating.

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