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Evaluation Procedures for Orthopedic Problems

What are standard evaluation procedures?

Before a treatment or rehabilitation plan can be made, your orthopedist must first find what is causing your condition. This typically involves a physical exam and a review of your health history. The healthcare provider will also look at your symptoms. Be sure to tell your provider about any other illnesses, injuries, or complaints that may be causing the pain or condition. Also tell him or her about any treatments or medicines that you have had. You may have testing after this first exam.

Advanced evaluation procedures

If you need more evaluation you may have one of these tests:

  • X-ray. This test uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of tissues, bones, and organs on film.

  • Arthrogram. This X-ray shows bone structures after an injection of a contrast fluid into a joint area. When the fluid leaks into an area that it does not belong, disease or injury may be considered, as a leak would provide evidence of a tear, opening, or blockage.

  • MRI. This test uses large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It can often determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle.

  • CT scan. This test uses X-rays and computer technology to make horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Electromyogram (EMG). This test evaluates nerve and muscle function.

  • Ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs

  • Arthroscopy. This test is used to evaluate a joint. It uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) that is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen. It's used to evaluate any degenerative or arthritic changes in the joint. It also detects bone diseases and tumors and may help determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.

  • Myelogram. This test involves the injection of a dye or contrast material into the spinal canal. Next a specific X-ray study lets the healthcare provider evaluation of the spinal canal and nerve roots.

  • Radionuclide bone scan. This is a nuclear imaging technique. It uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

  • Blood tests. Other blood tests may be used to check for certain types of arthritis.

After the healthcare provider has collected and looked at the results of the tests, he or she will discuss the treatment options with you. Together you can choose the best treatment plan for you.