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R h e u m at o lo g y
Ultrasound Offers Physicians Important Tool to Identify and
“If we can eventually use ultrasound to predict whether certain
treatments will work long term, we can improve treatment decision
making and provide relief to patients much more quickly.”
Arthritis, or joint inflammation, may cause
irreversible damage and disability if left untreated.
Experts say early and accurate diagnosis and
treatment is critical to managing pain and
improving joint function. Though ultrasound
has been used in medicine since the 1940s,
technological advances now make it possible
to expedite relief for many of the 46-million
Americans with arthritis.
“Ten years ago, it was difficult to distinguish
enough detail in ultrasound images to make an
accurate diagnosis of arthritis,” says UCLA
rheumatologist John FitzGerald, MD, PhD.
UCLAHEALTH.ORG 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631)
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound
waves to produce images that identify the
distance, size and shape of objects inside
the body. Compared to conventional X-rays,
ultrasound is now the second most common
form of diagnostic imaging, and may produce
images that provide additional information.
“We can use ultrasound to identify
inflammation, swelling or increased blood
flow in a problem area or to see the crystals
associated with gout,” he explains.
Based on that information, Dr. FitzGerald
says, physicians can diagnose whether the
arthritis is non-inflammatory (osteoarthritis),
inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis) or gouty
(a form of arthritis that develops when uric
acid crystals form in and around the joints,
usually of the big toe) and determine if the
condition is likely to cause serious problems.