Imaging 101: Different imaging types and a rationale for their use.
Radiology is a specialist field that uses different types of images to retrieve information about any structural defects under the skin that may be responsible for a patient’s pain and suffering. Diagnostic imaging studies are an important tool for a physiotherapist to use in order to gain a more detailed understanding of the severity of internal damage at a muscle/joint/tendon. The most commonly used imaging study techniques used by Physiotherapist’s include X-Ray, ultrasound (US), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography).
- X-Ray – Cost effective and highly specific, XR images provide your physio with information about bony structures and joints. Small dose of radiation.
- Ultrasound (US) – Fast and also fairly inexpensive, US is capable of producing high quality images of the musculoskeletal system including but not limited too tendon, bursa, muscle, joint position. No radiation
- MRI – The imaging modality of choice (in most cases) for a wide range of muscle and bone problems within the body. MRI retrieves highly detailed images of both bone and soft tissue structures (vertebral disc, nerves, tendon sheaths etc) of the body in 3 dimensions. More expensive but no radiation
- CT – Is a type of imaging that allows for visualisation of defects down to 1mm, and is often the choice used in cases where small bones or small abnormalities of a bone are thought to be present. Most radiation
Our Goal at PhysioHealth is to:
- Provide a comprehensive explanation of the purpose and use of an imaging study
- Refer, or arrange referral for the use of an appropriate imaging study that is best suited to reveal the suspected source of pain.
- Consider the risk to the patient from exposure to radiation.
- Recommend imaging studies in a timely fashion that is most cost effective to the patient.
A question of relevance...
It is important to understand for both the patient and physio that information provided from an imaging study must be interpreted within the context of the injury history and presentation. There are many examples in published research literature that demonstrate structural abnormalities in populations who actually have no symptoms of pain and suffering at all. For example, MRI findings of knee damage have been reported for basketball athletes who in fact have no pain at all! Similarly, spinal defects such as disc protrusions have been found in scans of healthy, fit and active people. In summary, whilst current imaging technologies provide us with high quality information, it does not on every occasion provide an answer and or solution to a patient’s injury. The information must correlate with the physiotherapist clinical finding to be relevant.
If you have any questions about imaging or scans you have had in the past or feel you may require please talk to your PhysioHealth physiotherapist.