Computed tomography (CT) examination (also known as a CAT scan) is used in podiatry to help diagnose and treat foot or ankle problems. A CT is a kind of X-ray device that takes cross sectional images of a part of the body, giving the physician a three-dimensional image. CT scans are often superior to conventional X-rays because they can more accurately pinpoint a suspected problem. Common foot problems a CT exam can help diagnose include: arthritis, deformities, flat feet, foreign bodies, fractures, infection, and tumors.
Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having a CT exam or any X-ray examination because the radiation may harm the unborn child.
X-rays help determine whether a bone has been fractured or damaged by conditions such as an infection, arthritis, or other disease.
Other reasons for conventional X-rays on your feet are to:
- Evaluate changes in the bones from infections, arthritis, or other bone disease.
- Assess whether a child’s bones are growing normally.
- Locate foreign objects (such as pieces of glass or metal) in a wound.
- Determine whether bones are properly set after treating a fracture.
- Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having X-rays because the radiation may harm the unborn child.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is sophisticated diagnostic equipment used to diagnose an array of health problems or conditions, including:
- Injuries of the tendons, ligaments, or cartilage
MRIs use no radiation like conventional X-rays or CT scans. They employ large magnet and radio waves to produce three-dimensional images. MRIs are very good at portraying soft tissues and bones in your feet and ankles.
People with the following conditions may not be good candidates for a MRI:
- Conditions that requires a heart pacemaker
- Artificial heart valves
- Electronic inner ear implants
- Electronic stimulators
- Implanted pumps
- Metal fragments in eyes
- Surgical clips in the head (particularly aneurysm clips)
- Individuals with dental fillings or bridges, a replacement hip or knee, or tubal ligation clips are generally safe to have a MRI
In most cases, a full exam of the foot and ankle via MRI lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.
Ultrasound is a very effective tool for diagnosing a wide variety of foot and ankle problems, particularly soft tissue problems. Ultrasound uses sound waves on the body in a way much like radar uses sound waves. The waves hit a targeted area and are bounced back to a recording device, which produces an image. Ultrasound is a completely safe, noninvasive, and painless diagnostic procedure.
Common problems for which ultrasound may be prescribed include:
- Heel spurs or plantar fasciitis
- Injuries of the ligaments, tendons, or cartilage
- Morton’s neuroma
- Presence of foreign bodies
- Soft tissue masses
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Tendonitis or tears in a tendon