Pinpoint Medications: How Far We’ve Come

It’s a common scenario: a football player begins to notice pain when he throws the football. It’s a minor nuisance at first, but eventually the pain lasts into the next day. He tries not to move his shoulder more than necessary. The pain has begun to affect his performance, often waking him up at night. After a couple of months of his wife suggesting he go to the doctor, he finally makes an appointment.

Until recently, his doctor would study the weakened athlete’s shoulder and determine his joint is inflamed. Using knowledge of anatomy and palpation, he would inject the shoulder with the latest medication. Hopefully, the medicine would reach the right area and the needle itself wouldn’t do further damage.

Today, we have better technology: Sonosite. Sonosite is a portable ultrasound used to accurately guide the needle (and the medication) to precisely the right area. The likelihood of pinpointing the injury is much higher, as is our football player’s return to the game.

While not all physicians use ultrasound to inject problematic joints, here are the facts:

• Ultrasound-guided injections are safer than blind injections because they reduce the risk of needle-induced damage to surrounding tissue.

• Ultrasound-guided injections are effective because the physician can visualize exactly where the medication is being delivered in real-time. It is immediately known that the medicine is in the area where it is needed, instead of having to “wait and see.”

• Ultrasound-guided injections can reduce the need for repeated doctor visits, because the proper area is targeted the first time.

Ultrasound-guided injections are appropriate for both shoulder and hip problems and can be used to inject local anesthetic, corticosteroids, or other medication. The joint itself or the surrounding area (bursa) can be injected as needed. These injections are used to treat synovitis, bursitis, and other painful or debilitating conditions.

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