Diagnostic Imaging and Orthopedics

Diagnostic Imaging and Orthopedics

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Orthopedic medicine has made huge advances in recent years thanks to the various diagnostic imaging tools that are now widely in use. Whenever a patient sees an orthopedic physician, or the patient is referred to an orthopedist for treatment, the doctor will evaluate the person’s condition using various imaging films and scans.

These images and films allow a doctor to see the structures inside the body to get a better idea of what the problem or issue may be. If it is indeed an orthopedic (musculoskeletal) issue, the scans will reveal the patient’s health condition as it relates to their ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, muscles, and related tissues.

Let’s take a look at some of the main types of imaging technology that is used in orthopedics:


The most basic of the imaging tools, the X-ray is done by focusing a small amount of radiation through the body onto a film behind the patient. X-rays reveal a series of black-and-white shadowed images.

X-rays are handy in verifying a fracture or dislocation in a bone or joint, but they are limited to a two-dimensional image – and in orthopedics, sometimes a three-dimensional image is better for the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. 


An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is used to obtain images of tissues like bones, joints, cartilage, and tendons in a certain part of the body for structural abnormalities or degeneration. The resulting image shows a detailed representation of the tissues.

One advantage of an MRI is that there is no exposure to radiation. However, patients with metal inside of their body, such as a pacemaker or metal plates, cannot have an MRI because the super-strong magnets would pull on these devices and could cause internal injury.


An ultrasound is used in orthopedic medicine to examine soft tissues like tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and joints that do not show up on a traditional X-ray. In an ultrasound scan, sound waves echo off tissues in the body and create an image of the targeted body part.

For example, if the patient complains of pain in the shoulder, an ultrasound can be used to examine the tendons of the rotator cuff for damage. 

Ultrasound technology can also be used to help guide an orthopedic surgeon when performing targeted injections into a joint. It can also reveal the presence of tumors or calcified deposits of bone. There is no exposure to radiation, and the costs are generally much lower than an MRI or CT scan.

Orthopedic Surgeons in St. Louis, MO

If you live in the St. Louis, Missouri, area and have an injury or degenerative musculoskeletal condition, contact us today at Advanced Bone & Joint. We have two convenient locations in St. Peters and O’Fallon to serve you, and we offer general orthopedics as well as nutrition and weight-loss programs to keep you in excellent shape.

Call to schedule an appointment at (636) 229-4222 or request an appointment online. Let us help you start feeling like yourself again!