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.