When is an X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, CT scan, bone scan, or other investigation appropriate for my injury?

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There are many investigations that doctors and physiotherapists can utilize to help determine a patient’s diagnosis. Further investigation is usually used to help confirm or eliminate a suspected diagnosis following clinical examination and are frequently indicated in the following scenarios:

  • Severe or traumatic injury
  • Suspicion of serious pathology
  • Unusual clinical presentations
  • Unknown diagnosis following examination
  • Injuries that are unresponsive to treatment

As a general rule, investigations are only indicated if the outcome is likely to change treatment and should be discussed on an individual basis with your doctor or physiotherapist. It is usually unnecessary to perform expensive investigations to confirm an already obvious clinical diagnosis.

In addition, there are many instances when a thorough examination from a qualified professional is more accurate in determining a diagnosis than an investigation. This is due to the fact that many investigations are unreliable or have inaccuracies due to a variety of factors. Nonetheless, they have their place in the clinical setting and should be used at the discretion of the treating physiotherapist or doctor.

Read more about investigations.

Further investigation to assist with injury diagnosis (knee joint x-ray)

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