X-rays are an integral part of the orthopaedic exam. Although many problems do not actually involve the bone, it is important to rule out boney-type abnormalities. Often patients referred by other physicians have already had x-rays taken. These sometimes will suffice; however, special views or updated films are sometimes necessary. During treatment of a problem such as a fracture, follow-up x-rays will be necessary to monitor the progress of the healing. X-rays of the extremities have a very low dose of radiation and their benefits far outweigh their risks. Nonetheless, we try to keep the number of x-rays taken to a minimum. If you are pregnant, be sure to inform the x-ray technician so that appropriate shielding can be used if necessary.
Other studies may be necessary to assist in the diagnosis of the problem. Some of these tests are performed by other specialists. As an example, an MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is sometimes helpful for certain types of problems. It is important to understand, however, that these other tests do not replace a good history and physical exam and some studies show that an MRI scan is less accurate than a history and physical exam by a specialist.