Physical podiatric examinations and x-rays can help determine the cause of problems with feet, ankles, and lower legs. Sometimes however, these tools cannot give a clear glimpse of the issues. When these initial diagnostic tools cannot diagnose the condition, an ultrasound is used to help a doctor evaluate pain, swelling, infection, and other symptoms.
Why an ultrasound may be needed
An ultrasound can be very helpful in diagnosing various conditions. Many soft-tissue problems and bone injuries can be seen more clearly using an ultrasound instead of a conventional X-ray system. Some of the many conditions that can be discovered using an ultrasound include:
- Cartilage injury.
- Foreign bodies.
- Heel spurs.
- Ligament/tendon tears and ruptures.
- Muscle sprains and strains.
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Soft tissue masses and certain tumors.
- Stress fracture.
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.
In some cases, ultrasounds may also be used as a treatment for the relief of:
Ultrasounds work by using the same principles involved in sonar. The ultrasound sends sound waves and records the echoing waves while a computer turns the waves into a real-time picture.
The steps of an ultrasound procedure include:
- Applying a water-based gel to the foot, ankle, or lower leg (whichever body part is being examined).
- Pressing a sensor (called a transducer) against the skin – angling and sweeping the sensor to get best view of area.
- Reviewing findings.
In many cases, the ultrasound can be completed in about 30 minutes to an hour.