BACKGROUND: Current medical applications for diagnostic ultrasound are numerous. The technology is attractive because of its ease of use, noninvasive nature and low cost. Recent technological advances have improved ultrasound images of spine-related soft tissues. OBJECTIVE: To examine and summarize the spine-related diagnostic ultrasound literature to help aid in understanding its possible applications. DATA SOURCES: This literature search was part of a larger search in which several hundred musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound articles were collected. MEDLINE from 1970 to present was searched electronically. Chiropractic Research Archives Collection (Vol. I-IV) were inspected manually. Bibliographies and references from studies obtained were examined thoroughly for additional references. DATA SYNTHESIS: All articles related to diagnostic ultrasound and its spinal applications were collected and reviewed, except those focusing on intraoperative spinal ultrasound in neurosurgery. RESULTS: Ultrasound has long been used to measure the spinal canal, detect cord abnormalities and examine soft tissue abnormalities. Recently, it has been used to quantify scoliotic curves, measure multifidus muscle size and image sciatic nerve lesions. CONCLUSION: Several well-documented applications of spine-related diagnostic ultrasound, along with many new possible applications, make this technology important to any clinician interested in noninvasive diagnostic applications for the spine and soft tissue.
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