Musculoskeletal ultrasound provides point of care assessment of musculoskeletal structures. This technology has been used in Europe for years and is gaining in popularity in the U.S. It can enhance our clinical examination by allowing us to visualize the internal anatomy of a joint or tissue. In this way, we can see bony changes, inflammation, effusions (fluid collections) and other features that may improve our ability to diagnose the cause of musculoskeletal symptoms. In addition, ultrasound can be used to follow patients and determine the efficacy of treatments, and to provide imaging guidance for therapeutic injections.
In this posterior image of an elbow joint (image below), we see the bony olecranon (part of the humerus) and the olecranon fossa. When there is inflammation and fluid in the joint, the normal fat pad will be displaced and a fluid collection is seen.
This anterior longitudinal view of the knee (image below) shows the quadriceps tendon inserting into the patella (kneecap). When there is fluid in the knee joint we can often see it between the femur and the quadriceps tendon.