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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 determine the reason for, and source of, your condition. This typically involves a complete physical exam and a review of your medical history profile, in addition to a description of your symptoms. Be sure to tell your healthcare providers of any other illnesses, injuries, or complaints that may be associated with the pain or condition. Also, tell him or her about any previous treatments or medicines prescribed. Initial tests may then follow.

Advanced evaluation procedures

If you need further 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 onto 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.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (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.

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT 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 evaluative information is collected and reviewed, the orthopedist will discuss the treatment options with you to help you select the best treatment plan that promotes an active and functional life.