Ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that uses a physical mechanic similar to a submarine's sonar or dolphin echolocation. The device, called a transducer, sends out high frequency sound waves and then "listens" to the response to create an image based on the sound reflected back at the machine.
This visualization allows the doctor to determine the location of abnormal growths or other abnormalities within the soft tissue of the foot and ankle. This procedure is not often used to evaluate the bone. Additionally, all image recording happens in "real" time as soon as the machine is turned on and placed on the body. There is no wait for any sort of picture development needed for x-rays and other imaging procedures.
The ultrasound procedure can be used to diagnose and evaluate a wide range of foot and ankle conditions, including:
- Soft tissue masses
- Heel spurs
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Morton's neuroma
- Ligament injuries
During the ultrasound procedure, a water-based gel is applied to the targeted area to allow for constant contact between the body and the transducer. The transducer is then pressed firmly against the skin and moved back and forth across the area to observe the area in great detail. The images appear on the screen during the procedure and can be viewed by patient and doctor right away. The whole procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes to perform.
There is no discomfort associated with this procedure, although if the foot has already been tender there may be some slight pressure against it. This procedure is considered safe for all patients with no ionizing radiation used and no major health risks. Any patient can undergo this exam, whether they are pregnant, have a pacemaker or any other medical condition that may make you ineligible for an MRI or CT scan.