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Musculoskeletal Emergencies - What the Radiologist Needs to Know

ED Ilieva


BACKGROUND: Many traumatic, vascular, infectious, and inflammatory emergencies affect the musculoskeletal (MSK) system.

LEARNING POINTS: To understand the value of different imaging modalities and to provide certain tips and tricks when reading MSK emergency cases.

MAIN BODY: MSK emergencies, especially trauma, are commonly encountered in the Emergency Department. The degree of MSK trauma ranges from trivial injuries to life-threatening ones. Imaging is of great importance when establishing a diagnosis and evaluating the full extent and severity of disease, ultimately impacting treatment. The most frequently used modality continues to be plain radiographs. For more complex injuries computed tomography (CT) is still the most commonly available and widely used cross-sectional imaging tool. Although CT has many advantages, the soft tissue detail offered by CT scanning is limited in the evaluation of MSK traumatic and non-traumatic emergencies. Further diagnostic information could be obtained either by ultrasound (US) or magnetic resonance (MR). US is effective in evaluation of effusions (joint and paratenon), cysts, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. In addition to its diagnostic benefits, US is used to guide aspirations and injections. MR imaging (not always available in the emergency centers) provides definitive diagnosis of soft tissue and bony injury both in low-velocity and high-velocity trauma. It acts as an excellent tool in problem solving in repetitive trauma as well as in complex sports injuries.

CONCLUSION: Imaging plays an integral role in the diagnosis and management of MSK emergencies.


musculoskeletal emergencies, traumatic, non-traumatic

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ED Ilieva

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