Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound

Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound by Dr. Vivek Loomba


MSK Ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound procedure that uses sound waves to generate pictures of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. It is used to improve mobility in the body through the evaluation of space between joints and surrounding tissues for the filling up of inflammations in the body. 

What can Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound diagnose?

It can help to diagnose chronic conditions and diseases such as tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears, joint problems, and tumors or cysts. 

Areas of Interest

The common areas of interest to perform Musculoskeletal procedures are –

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Knee
  • Hip 
  • Wrist
  • Ankle
  • Extremities (hand, finger, foot, toe)

What does Musculoskeletal Ultrasound equipment look like?

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound equipment is an invaluable tool for diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. It uses a transducer device to generate high-frequency sound waves that are then used to produce images of the area being scanned. It is responsible for generating sound waves and the production of images.

The transducer looks like a small hand-held device with a smooth, curved surface. It has a handle on one side and several buttons on the other side which allow you to adjust settings such as frequency and power. On top of this, there are several knobs that can be adjusted to control various aspects of the scan such as depth and zoom level. A gel is applied to the targeted area by a technologist and a transducer is placed for capturing images on a video screen. It creates images on the basis of amplitude, frequency, and time. It also considers the body tissues and sound while traveling through the body.

How MSK Ultrasound Procedure is performed?

A radiologist or orthopedist or rheumatologist will position you on the exam table. They will tell you to sit or lie down for the procedure. A water gel will be applied to the targeted area. It works by creating a secure contact between the skin and the transducer. The gel helps in eliminating air pockets for the successful transmission of sound waves in the body.  The transducer is moved around the area to capture the desired image. It is quite a painless procedure but a person can experience minor pain if the targeted area is tender.

Benefits of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

  • It is a non-invasive imaging technique that provides detailed information about the musculoskeletal system.
  • It is a valuable tool for diagnosing and monitoring musculoskeletal conditions, as well as for performing therapeutic interventions.
  • It reduces radiation exposure to patients.
  • Ultrasound procedures are painless. However, some patients may experience little discomfort during the procedure.
  • Provides accurate and detailed images of the musculoskeletal system in real time. A great tool for needle biopsies and fluid aspiration.
  • Easy to use, widely available, and cost-effective.
  • An excellent alternative to MRI.
  • It can also be used to assess soft tissue injuries such as tendons and ligaments more accurately than traditional imaging methods.
  • Faster than MRI, allowing patients to move while performing the procedure.
  • Cadiac pacemakers and metallic implant patients cannot be exposed to the strong magnetic field of MRI. Such patients can safely undergo Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound procedure.

Risks of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

  • Radiation exposure from the ultrasound waves.
  • Potential tissue damage from the mechanical energy produced by the sound waves.
  • Inaccurate results of false positives or false negatives can lead to incorrect diagnoses or treatments. 

Limitations of Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound 

There are always some limitations to this technology that should be taken into consideration when using them. One of the main limitations of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound is the type of transducer used to create the images. The transducer must be able to penetrate deep enough into the body in order to provide clear and accurate images. Additionally, different types of tissue have different levels of sound absorption which can affect the overall image quality. Therefore, Musculoskeletal Ultrasound imaging may not be able to detect smaller or deeper structures due to its limited resolution in images.