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Objective

To analyze the utility of musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSUS) in a rheumatology department and characterize relevant clinical trends.

Methods

Electronic medical records of all patients (n = 503) requiring MSUS in our department from January 2007 to December 2011 were reviewed. Rheumatologists performed MSUS using MyLab 25 or MyLab 70 systems. Clinical data were collected, including age, sex, symptoms, joint(s) examined, MSUS findings, procedures, further radiologic studies, and additional specialty consults. Results were tabulated from 717 total MSUS encounters and each was categorized as a completed encounter or an incomplete encounter. All magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reports that followed MSUS were examined for concurrence. Cumulative numbers of MSUS examinations and MRIs were totaled. The Medicare global national average cost for MRIs and potential savings were calculated.

Results

A total of 789 joint sites were examined by MSUS. There were 84 US-guided procedures. Overall, 158 specialty consults were generated. After MSUS, 55 additional radiologic studies were ordered. There were 613 (85.5%) primary completed MSUS encounters and 104 cases (14.5%) requiring further imaging studies or an orthopedic consultation. There was an increased use of MSUS and a concurrent decreased use of MRI in our department over 4 consecutive years. We calculated the total potential savings from our rheumatology service to the Department of Defense as approximately $27,937.80 to $38,047.20 over 4 years.

Conclusion

MSUS has a positive impact in a rheumatology practice. MSUS augments the clinical examination, influences diagnosis and management, decreases reliance on other imaging modalities, and reduces health care costs.