Diagnostic Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique that has a broad range of applications. For decades it has been used in the diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries, especially when there is injury to tendons and ligaments. With an increasing awareness of soft tissue injury by veterinarians specializing in canine sports medicine, orthopedics and rehabilitation, diagnostic ultrasound is now being utilized to diagnose them. Injuries of the following structures are now being evaluated ultrasonongraphically in dogs by those experienced in the technique:

  • supraspinatus tendon
  • biceps tendon
  • achilles tendon
  • iliopsoas
  • infraspinatus tendon
  • patellar ligaments
  • collateral ligaments

This list is just a few examples of the more common strucutres that are evaluated with ultrasound in the dog, but many more are possible!

Advantages of Ultrasound

There are multiple advantages over other diagnostic imaging modalities for the evaluation of soft tissue injuries in dogs. Radiographs are the cornerstone of an orthopedic evaluation, but where they tell you a lot about bone, they tell you relatively little about soft tissue injury. Ultrasound, on the other hand can more fully evaluate soft tissue injuries unlike radiographs. A significant amount of detail in multiple angles can be obtained by ultrasound of the affected structure. It does not achieve the detail of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which will remain the gold standard for evaluating both bone and soft tissue structures, but it does have some advantages. Where MRI requires that that patient be anesthetized for the study, ultrasound can be performed in the awake or slightly sedated patient. MRI are also very expensive relative to ultrasound. In order to assess whether a injury has healed over time, follow-up exams are necessary. Multiple follow-up exams with MRI may not be practical, but multiple ultrasound exams to follow the progress are easily performed.