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Orthopaedic Diagnostic Procedures at UPMC in Central Pa.

Determining the source of your pain is an important first step to effectively treating your condition. Our orthopaedic specialists use a variety of tests to arrive at a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

Tests for Diagnosing Orthopaedic Problems

  • Arthrogram. This specialized X-ray views the bone structures after a contrast fluid has been injected in the joint areas. Visible fluid leaks can indicate a tear, opening or blockage.
  • Arthroscopy. This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a tiny tube with a camera (an arthroscope) into the joint to look for damage or disease.
  • Bone scan (SPECT). This nuclear medicine imaging test can rule out subtle fractures, tumors or infections in your vertebrae that are not visible in an x-ray.
  • Computed tomography (CT). A CT scan is a painless test that takes a cross-sectional image of any part of your body using a special X-ray machine.
  • Electrodiagnostic testing. This assesses electrical activity in a nerve and can detect if your muscle weakness is a result of injury, or if it is due to a larger problem with the nerves that control the muscles.
  • Electromyography (EMG). By placing a special needle into a muscle, our physicians can record and analyze the electrical activity.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is an imaging technology that produces detailed pictures of your body. It is used to evaluate the lower back for bone degeneration or injury, or to diagnose disease in tissues, nerves, muscles, ligaments and blood vessels. Open MRI units are available.
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound. A specialized exam that looks specifically at your muscles and joints. Our sports medicine physicians are specially trained to use MSK ultrasound to look at muscles, some ligaments, nerves, and tendons.
  • Myelogram. A contrast dye injection enables an x-ray to reveal spinal cord and nerve compression caused by herniated discs or fractures.
  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound is a test that uses reflected sound waves to produce an image of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and joints throughout the body.
  • X-ray. A conventional X-ray scans your body to detect broken bones or an injured vertebra. (Injured muscles and ligaments or a bulging disc are not visible on a conventional X-ray). This is a critical first step for broken bone and fracture care.

Bone density tests

If you are at risk for osteoporosis, our imaging team will perform a bone density test using special X-ray technology called DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry). The machine will scan your hip and spine to detect early loss of bone. The test is painless and takes approximately 20 minutes.

  • Bone density screening. Bone densitometry measures your bone mineral content and density. This screening uses minimal x-ray or ultrasound procedures to produce images of your heel or finger to determine if you need further testing. Free walk-in heel or finger scans are available at most of our outpatient imaging sites.
  • Bone density test (DXA). The DXA scan, sometimes referred to as a bone density test, uses special x-ray technology called DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) to determine if you have osteoporosis. It scans your hip, spine or even your entire body to detect early bone loss. Chronic bone loss can lead to spinal fractures.

Learn more about how to prepare for your diagnostic procedure.

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