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Orthopedic Imaging

Diagnosing Orthopedic Conditions & Sports Injuries in Orange County

The tools and techniques used to diagnose and treat orthopedic conditions and sports injuries are constantly evolving. Today’s orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine doctors have a wide range of imaging and diagnostic tools at their disposal to help accurately diagnose musculoskeletal disorders and injuries affecting the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and the spine and neck.

Types of Orthopedic Imaging


X-rays show bones and are used to diagnose fractures and joint dislocations. Your orthopedist may also order an x-ray if they suspect a bone or joint is damaged from other conditions such as arthritis or osteonecrosis. The advantages of X-rays are that they are easy to obtain and offer useful information about bones and joints. However, X-rays are a series of overlapping shadows, showing only two dimensions of a particular body part. Today, most orthopedists use digital X-rays over traditional film X-rays. Digital X-rays use much less radiation and the images can be computer enhanced. Larger, clearer, color-enhanced images can result in a more accurate diagnosis. However, often times, three dimensions are necessary to get a complete understanding of a condition.

CT Scan

A CT scan (computed tomography) combines X-rays with computer technology to produce detailed, cross-sectional pictures of the body part being scanned. Your doctor may order a CT scan to diagnose a bone or spinal tumor or a fracture that doesn’t appear on X-rays. CT scans provides the doctor with a 3D view of a part of the body. CT Scans can also detect trauma to the chest, abdomen, pelvis, or spinal cord. Sometimes doctors may order a CT scan with contrast dye to better visualize the area being scanned. While CT scans give a very detailed picture of the anatomy of bones and joints, they can often be time-consuming, and patients are subjected to more radiation than with an x-ray. Additionally, CT scans are not very good at assessing soft tissue structures like tendons and ligaments.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is often used to evaluate soft tissue. MRI uses a magnetic field and a sophisticated computer system to give reliable and detailed images of soft tissues and bony structures. Your orthopedist may order an MRI to diagnose a torn muscle, ligament, tendon or cartilage, herniated disc, hip or pelvic problems, osteoarthritis and other conditions.

During an MRI, the patient sits or lies down in a machine that creates a magnetic field around the body. There is no radiation exposure to the patient. Some patients may find sitting or lying in the machine to be claustrophobic. However, there are different types of MRI scanners, including open MRI 1.5T and 3T strength machines, whole-body scanners, and extremity-specific units (those that only scan arms, legs, hands or feet). Patients who have any metal, pacemakers, or aneurism clips must inform their physician prior to any MRI scan.

Image-Guided Injections

An image-guided injections, allows your physiatrist to precisely place a small needle into the exact location to provide pain relief. Fluoroscopy (a type of low-does X-ray) is used to clearly view the area in real time, on a video monitor. This ensures exact placement of the needle during the procedure. Ultrasound-guided injections are a non-invasive approach to treating pain, inflammation and impaired mobility. Ultrasound technology captures live images of internal body structures through the application of high-frequency sound waves and allows the practitioner to visualize the treatment being delivered to the intended target and surrounding structures both before, during and after the procedure for my dynamic feedback to ensure the best placement of the medicine. Image-guided injections are used for many types of conditions including hip pain, knee pain, SI joint pain and lower back and cervical pain.

DEXA Bone Density Scan

DEXA, or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, is the most common test for measuring bone density (the amount of calcium and other bone minerals in a segment of bone) and diagnosing osteoporosis. It is a low-dose X-ray test that helps to measure the strength and thickness (known as bone density or mass) of your bones.


Ultrasound is particularly helpful in evaluating tendons that sit just beneath the skin, such as the Achille’s tendon. The advantage of an ultrasound is that it is a noninvasive imaging technique and is safe for pregnant women, children, and patients with pacemakers and metal implants. Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce pictures of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and soft tissue throughout the body. The disadvantage is that the image quality may not be as detailed as an MRI, and the clarity can sometimes depend on the expertise of the person performing the test.

Orthopedic Imaging Services in Orange County

Many of our locations have on-site imaging services for X-ray, MRI and ultrasound imaging. If your orthopedist or sports medicine doctor orders any type of imaging that cannot be performed on-site, we have a list of radiology and imaging locations throughout Orange County to help provide the necessary diagnostic imaging required.

An NOI physician must order any in-house imaging done at one of our Newport Orthopedic Institute locations.

Hoag Outpatient Imaging Services >

To schedule an appointment, please call 949-764-5573 or 800-309-9729
Fax: 949-764-4299

NOTE: For HMO insurances, please allow 5-10 business days for authorization

Open System Imaging – Santa Ana >