Imaging techniques are often used to detect inflammation and doctors will order this if lab analysis or clinical tests do not provide enough evidence to provide a diagnosis either for or against rheumatoid arthritis.
The images from ultrasound are used to look at the synovial tissue that surrounds joints and tendons to see if there is any inflammation. One of the symptoms common in almost all cases of rheumatoid arthritis is synovitis, so identifying this as early as possible is vital.
Tenosynovitis can also be identified in a patient’s fingers, and this has been confirmed as an early indicator of rheumatoid arthritis.
Traditionally, ultrasound machines that produce a grayscale image which the medical staff can work from. However, a newer, less common and more expensive power Doppler can now be used to detect blood flow. This allows the doctor to analyze if the synovial tissue is inflamed. An additional way clinicians can use ultrasound is to monitor the treatment a patient is receiving, but it is not yet very common.
There are a number of ways in which dopplers can be used to test for and treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Using a doppler benefits both the doctor and the patient when administering injections to specific parts of the body, both in terms of location and depth. Having the injection in the right place means that the patient is more comfortable and less tense during the procedure.
In an orthopedic procedure, patients do not have to wait for days to receive their test results. The Doppler gives results during the appointment, and a diagnosis can be given immediately, meaning that any treatments can begin wither in the same appointment, or very soon afterwards.
Traditional physician examinations usually consist of the patient’s joints being checked manually, and the results recorded on a scale. This information is then translated into a diagnosis. The difficulty is that this diagnosis is based on the patient’s perception so results differ from cases to case. Using the Doppler, the inflammation can be measured to give an accurate diagnosis, meaning the doctor can give appropriate treatment based on the results.
Without using the doppler, tests had to be carried out time and again on patients, often over an extended period, to track the symptoms, and to assess how the treatment is performing. Using the ultrasound imaging from the doppler, the doctor has instant access to all previous appointments on his computer, and can therefore easily refer to previous visits to chart the progress of the inflammation, and the effectiveness of the treatment. Using this information, the patient can be assured that they are being provided with the treatments that are best suited for the stage their condition is at.
Traditional treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are still used because they have been the standard for a long time. These methods however, have flaws that mean patient care can suffer. The power doppler enables the doctors to remove doubt from their diagnoses and give their patients the treatments that will help treat their arthritis in the most effective way.