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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: 

  • Bursitis. 
  • Cartilage injury.
  • Foreign bodies. 
  • Heel spurs.
  • Ligament/tendon tears and ruptures. 
  • Muscle sprains and strains. 
  • Neuroma. 
  • Plantar fasciitis. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Soft tissue masses and certain tumors.
  • Stress fracture. 
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. 
  • Tendonitis.

In some cases, ultrasounds may also be used as a treatment for the relief of: 

  • Bursitis. 
  • Sprains.
  • Tendonitis.

Ultrasound overview

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.

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