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What is Ultrasound Used For?

A diagnostic ultrasound scan is a useful tool medical professionals use to gain real-time images of the inside of our bodies. This allows us to move the affected joint or muscle to see how the damaged structure interacts with other structures. For example, as the shoulder lifts above 90 degrees, one of the rotator cuff tendons can be imaged sliding underneath the bone.

What is diagnostic ultrasound used for?

Ultrasound is a good tool for imaging tendons, ligaments and muscles. It can give us information on how swollen or torn the suspected structure is, which will assist us not only on diagnosing the exact structure damaged but also assists in the prognosis for healing times.

Unfortunately the sound waves cannot penetrate and image underneath bones. This means that internal knee/hip ligaments and cartilage, along with the discs in the spine, cannot be imaged. The common joints and structures that are currently imaged at Katie Bell Physiotherapy:


Achilles tendon and calf muscles and the tendons on the inside and outside of the ankle.
Ligaments in the ankle.
Plantar Fascia under the foot and Toe joints.


Extracapsular ligaments inside and outside of the knee.
Patella tendon and patella on the front of the knee.
Thigh and Hamstring muscles.


Gluteal tendon on the outside of the hip.
Front of the hip joint and tendons.
Inside of the hip groin/adductor muscles.


Rotator cuff tendons.
AC Joint.


Tennis and golfer’s elbow on the inside or outside of the elbow.
Ligaments and joints.

Wrist and hand:

Flexor and extensor tendons into the wrist and fingers.
Joints in the wrist and fingers.

How does ultrasound work?

The ultrasound machine sends sound waves via a probe with ultrasound gel as a medium through the skin into the body. As the sound waves hit various tissues of variable densities in the body, the waves bounce back and the probe picks them up and makes an image on the screen. Higher density structures , like bones, show up as white on the image and lower density objects look darker. For instance, fluid looks like a black area. Ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves all show up as a combination of grey/white fibres.

Do I need an ultrasound?

Ultrasound scans pick up all kinds of internal changes going on inside the body, similar to how scars, cuts, and bruises indicate changes on the outside of the body. Having an ultrasound is not only helpful to confirm diagnosis, but also to aid in the prognosis of healing times. In some cases it may assist the practitioner in deciding to refer patients on for further investigations with X-ray or MRI scans, or onto consultants.

Ultrasounds with Katie Bell Physiotherapy

If we feel that a scan would be useful to complement your assessment and treatment plan then this will be discussed during your appointment, alternatively this can be requested as a one off appointment.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your treatment needs, and to determine if you need an ultrasound.

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