I began using Musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound (US) in 2010. It has been incredibly exciting to observe the growth of applications of this amazing technology for both myself personally as well as for the entire MSK US practicing community. MSK US has become an integral part of my Sports Medicine practice and I certainly anticipate its’ role to continue to expand and be able to provide cutting-edge medical care to my patients.
There is great variability with which MSK US is used among practitioners. Some providers do complete diagnostic scans of the shoulder, for example, to evaluate the extent of a potential rotator cuff tear to guide with potential surgical decision making, while others perform selective nerve blocks and finally, some practitioners simply use it to assist with the accuracy of various MSK joint and soft tissue injections. I would like to illustrate to all of you the applications for which I most commonly use MSK US to improve patient care.
Probably the most common application for which I use MSK US is to assist with the accuracy of joint and soft tissue injections. It has been clearly documented that MSK US improves the accuracy of certain MSK injections. While I do not use MSK US for all injections, ie, simple knee intra-articular and shoulder sub-acromial injection, I routinely employ MSK US to assist with certain injections. Common joints and soft tissue areas for which I employ MSK US for either cortisone or pro-inflammatory injections like Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) are:
Shoulder: Glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joint and long head biceps tendon sheath
Hip: Femoroacetabular, hamstring origin (tendon or bursa), mid-portion hamstring, pubic symphysis, gluteal tendons and bursa, iliopsoas bursa and tendon
Knee: Pes anserine and iliotibial bursae, patella and quadriceps tendons, Baker’s cyst aspiration
Wrist: Triangular fibro cartilage complex (TFCC), various wrist extensor and flexor tendons, aspirate ganglion cysts, numerous hand and wrist joints
Elbow: Lateral and medial epicondyle area, triceps insertion, olecranon bursitis, distal biceps and intra articular
Ankle: Achilles, tibialis posterior, peroneal tendons, numerous foot and ankle joints, plantar fascia
Back: Sacroiliac joint
I would also like to illustrate some interesting recent cases supporting the utility of MSK US in a Sports Medicine practice.
I am consulted numerous times a week by my orthopedic surgeon colleagues for diagnostic joint injections. Oftentimes, a patient’s hip pain may be multifactorial or difficult to specifically isolate. I will perform an intra-articular injection to see if it alleviates that patient’s pain, thus identifying that the area in which I placed the injection as the pain generating location. Correct identification of the pain generating source will help to assist with treatment considerations.
I also recently had a patient with greater than 1 year of hip pain. He had seen 8 different providers and had an extensive workup with imaging and injections only to have continued pain. He had hip joint and hamstring origin injections and felt no improvement. I was able to use the US to identify and isolate the obturator internus as the source of his pain by providing a diagnostic injection. This injection helped to make the appropriate diagnosis and ultimately influenced treatment.
Last month, an orthopedic surgeon asked me to evaluate a patient for refractory symptoms from a Baker’s cyst. The cyst persisted despite multiple intra articular-injections. I evaluated the cyst with US and noted that it was multilobulated. I was able to specifically aspirate each of the loculations and the patient has remained symptom-free.
I was also asked to see one of our varsity basketball players for refractory lateral knee pain. His athletic trainer was treating him with rehabilitation and multiple modalities but the pain persisted and was affecting the athletes’ ability to play. I was able to identify an inflamed Iliotibial band bursa with the US and subsequently inject it. He became pain-free and was able to play in that weeks’ game as well as the rest of the season.
Another exciting application of MSK US that has piqued my interest recently is the use of the US to assist with appropriately identifying the compartments of the lower extremity for chronic exertional compartment testing. I can employ the US to guarantee that I am in the appropriate anatomic compartment for testing.
With any new technology, the application and utility of MSK US can be user-dependent and it can be affected by a somewhat steep learning curve. MSK US curriculums are frequently being added to Sports Medicine fellowships to train some of the future leaders of medicine. I certainly anticipate that this technology with continue to evolve and its’ treatment applications will continue to expand.
How do you use MSK US? How has it improved your practice? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Bryant Walrod, MD, CAQSM, is Assistant Professor: Clinical at Ohio State University, is Team Physician for the Ohio State Athletics, and practices at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.