Sometimes, knee pain can develop as a result of overexertion or injury. But other times, you may not know the cause. Diagnostic ultrasound is a painless medical procedure that allows a medical provider to examine a patient’s knee and check for joint degeneration. The team at Reflex Knee Specialists offers comprehensive knee evaluations and non-surgical treatments for knee pain in Arizona, Oregon, and Washington State. Learn more about this service and why it’s so important.
A diagnostic knee ultrasound is a painless imaging test. Using sound waves that humans can’t hear, an ultrasound machine generates images of the soft tissues inside the knee joint. Ultrasound images can help identify injuries to tendons or ligaments, cartilage damage, inflammation, bone spurs, cysts, abnormal collections of fluid inside the joint (effusions), and structural abnormalities. These findings on ultrasound help doctors identify the underlying causes of knee pain. Knee ultrasounds can also be used for a preventive evaluation to check for signs of cartilage damage years before symptoms appear, allowing patients to get treatment before irreversible damage has occurred. Diagnostic ultrasound is painless, noninvasive, and can be performed at a medical clinic in just a few minutes.
If a patient has a knee injury or condition that’s causing knee pain, an ultrasound may be recommended to help determine the cause of pain and guide treatment. Ultrasound of the knee is used to help diagnose conditions like:
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the knee joint. When it becomes irritated from overuse, it can lead to pain and swelling in the knee. Bursitis can develop from repetitive motions that put stress on the knees, like yard work or tennis.
Cartilage is the flexible tissue that protects the ends of bones and allows them to move smoothly when articulating with each other. A sudden injury can damage the cartilage in the knee, or it may slowly break down over time. Cartilage damage can cause joint pain and stiffness or a sensation that the knee joint is clicking, catching, or giving out.
A cyst is a fluid-filled growth that can appear anywhere in the body. The most common type of cyst in the knee is a Baker’s cyst or popliteal cyst. When the knee produces too much fluid because of arthritis or cartilage damage, this type of cyst can develop. A Baker’s cyst may cause swelling, stiffness, and knee pain in the back of the knee.
This condition develops when the fatty tissue below the patella (knee cap) gets pinched or injured. Also known as fat pad impingement, it causes pain below the patella (kneecap) and usually gets worse after physical activity.
The knee joint has four major ligaments:
Sudden twisting motions or direct hits to the knee can damage these ligaments. ACL injuries are the most common. Ligament strains and tears most often happen sports like soccer or football.
The meniscus is a pad of fibrocartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the femur and tibia. It can get torn if a person quickly pivots or turns their leg. The most common type of meniscal tear is a degenerative tear, which is caused by destabilization of the meniscal tissue in the presence of chronic inflammation. A patient with a torn meniscus may have difficulty bending and straightening their leg and can experience pain and swelling.
The knees are the joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common cause of knee pain. OA is characterized by chronic inflammation, which causes cartilage to break down over time. This leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness, and eventual destruction of the entire knee joint. Osteoarthritis is most commonly seen in people who have had a prior knee injury (such as ACL or meniscal tear), played sports, and in people over age 50.
The synovium is the connective tissue that lines the inside of a joint. When the synovium in the knee becomes inflamed, a condition known as synovitis, patients usually experience joint pain. Synovitis can be caused by inflammatory arthritis or an injury.
Tendons are flexible tissues that connect muscles to bones. The tendons that provide support to in the knee can get damaged while playing sports or at during activities at work that involve repetitive squatting, kneeling, or bending. Some patients develop tendinitis, in which a tendon becomes inflamed and causes pain with movement.
Getting a diagnostic knee ultrasound has many advantages for the long term health and longevity of your knees. These include:
Minor knee pain can often be managed with rest. But if you have recurring pain or experience an injury, it’s best to see a medical provider experienced in diagnosing and treating knee pain. Schedule an appointment for evaluation if you have:
At Reflex Knee Specialists, we have the equipment to perform ultrasound imaging on-site. On the day of your imaging appointment, we recommend wearing loose-fitting, comfortable shorts or pants that can be pushed up to fully expose your knee. You will sit on an exam table or in a treatment chair. A provider will apply ultrasound gel to your knee, which helps transmit sound waves. They will then use a handheld transducer to view images on the ultrasound monitor. The provider will move the transducer across your knee joint to view images of:
You may need to move your knee into different positions during the evaluation. The procedure isn’t painful, but certain knee movements may be uncomfortable. During your diagnostic ultrasound, the provider will review the images with you. Based on their findings, a customized treatment plan will be recommended your knee pain. The whole procedure takes just a few minutes, and you can return to work or resume normal activities immediately afterward.
Diagnostic ultrasound can identify signs of injury, disease, or inflammation. The ultrasound images will help guide your personalized treatment plan. Reflex Knee Specialists offers innovative non-surgical treatments including:
As you move through a treatment plan, your Reflex provider may perform additional ultrasound exams to track your progress and to assess your response to treatment.
Some patients are more at risk of developing degenerative joint disease than others. These patients can benefit from regular ultrasound assessments to identify underlying issues before symptoms develop. An annual knee ultrasound can benefit patients with the following risk factors:
Even if you aren’t currently experiencing knee pain, an annual ultrasound evaluation might be necessary if you have one or more risk factors. At Reflex Knee Specialists, we strive to proactively diagnose knee conditions, even before symptoms begin to appear. Preventing additional decline is key to preserving joint function.
Knee pain shouldn’t keep you from doing the activities you love. Count on the experienced providers at Reflex Knee Specialists in Portland, Oregon; Bellevue, Washington; and Tempe, Arizona. Our medical team offers comprehensive knee evaluations and diagnostic testing and uses state-of-the-art technology to get to the root of knee pain and create personalized treatment plans. For more information, call 503-719-6783 or contact us to schedule a knee ultrasound today.