Children's Hospital Colorado

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Machine

We care for patients’ growing muscles, joints and bones through sports medicine, surgery, rehabilitation and research.

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Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of your child’s body. It is a safe and noninvasive evaluation, and it does not use harmful radiation. At Children’s Hospital Colorado, specialists at our Orthopedics Institute use a musculoskeletal ultrasound machine to evaluate and diagnose pediatric orthopedic conditions in an efficient and cost-effective way.

What is a musculoskeletal ultrasound machine?

MSK Ultrasound

A musculoskeletal ultrasound machine helps our specialists get a better look at abnormalities or injuries of the musculoskeletal system — bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissue. You are likely familiar with the term ultrasound because it’s the piece of equipment that medical specialists use to see a baby in its mother’s womb. The musculoskeletal ultrasound is the same technology and works the same way, but we use it to evaluate different parts of the body.

Guided injections

In addition to using it for diagnostic purposes, we use the musculoskeletal ultrasound machine for guided injections. This means if your child requires an injection, we can use the ultrasound machine to see the needle in real time. The process allows us to make sure the medication is being inserted in the correct place and that we are avoiding blood vessels and other structures.

According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the accuracy rate of an injection into a joint without the use of ultrasound — also called a blind injection — can be as low as 30% to 40%. With ultrasound guidance, that accuracy rate exceeds 90% and approaches 100% in many cases.

What conditions or injuries can the musculoskeletal ultrasound machine help diagnose?

We use the musculoskeletal ultrasound machine to evaluate and diagnose conditions and injuries that include:

  • Tendon tears or tendinitis (such as the rotator cuff in the shoulder, Achilles tendon in the ankle and other tendons throughout the body)
  • Muscle tears, masses or fluid collections
  • Ligament sprains or tears
  • Inflammation or fluid within joints
  • Benign and malignant soft tissue tumors
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Dislocations of the hip

What to expect from a musculoskeletal ultrasound?

A musculoskeletal ultrasound is safe and painless. We apply a gel to the evaluation area to create a bond between the skin and the ultrasound probe. This is because sound waves have a hard time traveling through air. The gel prevents any extra air space between the probe and your child’s skin so we can produce a clear image.

When we apply the probe to your child’s skin, you will see real-time images of your child’s musculoskeletal system on the screen. We explain what we are seeing, and we walk you through the entire evaluation process and diagnosis.

Your child should wear loose clothing that allows us to easily reach the affected area of the body. It may be necessary to change into an exam gown or shorts.

Why choose Children’s Colorado for a musculoskeletal ultrasound?

One of the best parts about our musculoskeletal ultrasound machine is that it’s portable, and it does not require you and your child to visit another part of the hospital. This streamlines the evaluation process and saves you time.

For some conditions, the musculoskeletal ultrasound sound machine can also be a cost-effective alternative to MRI or CT. It can provide useful information that MRI can’t, such as areas of calcification, inflammation and even structural tears. This is because the ultrasound machine allows us to view the condition or injury as your child moves, which is not possible with MRI and X-rays.

Additionally, the ultrasound machine gives information in real time, meaning we can show you and your child the abnormality or injury we are seeing, and we can help you understand the diagnosis. The machine connects to your child’s medical record so we can quickly access their information at the start of the appointment and save to their record any new and relevant information we learn from the ultrasound evaluation.

For your convenience, Children’s Colorado has three ultrasound machines and can provide this service at North Campus, South Campus and Children’s Colorado Health Pavilion.

Musculoskeletal ultrasound FAQ

A pediatric orthopedic appointment at Children’s Colorado may include a musculoskeletal ultrasound. This list of FAQs can help you prepare.

What does the musculoskeletal ultrasound equipment look like?

The ultrasound machine is portable and on wheels. It’s approximately 2 feet wide and long and stands at about 5 feet tall. We apply a gel substance on the affected area of body and use a probe to produce images on a screen.

What are the benefits of a musculoskeletal ultrasound?

An ultrasound is a cost-effective alternative to MRI and CT. We use the ultrasound machine to diagnose a variety of pediatric orthopedic conditions, such as muscle and tendon injuries. The results are real time, and we can often confirm a diagnosis immediately. We also use the machine to guide injections, so we can see where we are placing a needle. This allows us to avoid structures such as blood vessels.

What are the limitations of a musculoskeletal ultrasound?

A musculoskeletal ultrasound does not allow our team to see through a bone or other structures deep within the body. We use ultrasound to view outer structures only, such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. For a look at the internal structure of a bone or certain joints, we use MRI or other imaging techniques.

How should I prepare for a musculoskeletal ultrasound?

The benefit of an ultrasound is that it does not require much preparation on your part. Your child should wear loose clothing that allows us to easily reach the affected area of the body.

Contact the Orthopedics Institute

For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 720-777-6600.