Computed tomography (CT) examination (also known as a CAT scan) is used in podiatry to help diagnose and treat foot or ankle problems. A CT is a kind of X-ray device that takes cross sectional images of a part of the body, giving the physician a three-dimensional image. CT scans are often superior to conventional X-rays because they can more accurately pinpoint a suspected problem. Common foot problems a CT exam can help diagnose include: arthritis, deformities, flat feet, foreign bodies, fractures, infection, and tumors.

Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having a CT exam or any X-ray examination because the radiaiton may harm the unborn child.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is sophisticated diagnostic equipment used to diagnose an array of health problems or conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Infections
  • Injuries of the tendons, ligaments, or cartilage
  • Tumors

MRIs use no radiation like conventional X-rays or CT scans. They employ large magnet and radio waves to produce three-dimensional images. MRIs are very good at portraying soft tissues and bones in your feet and ankles.

People with the following conditions may not be good candidates for a MRI:

  • Conditions that requires a heart pacemaker
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Electronic inner ear implants
  • Electronic stimulators
  • Implanted pumps
  • Metal fragments in eyes
  • Surgical clips in the head (particularly aneurysm clips)
  • Individuals with dental fillings or bridges, a replacement hip or knee, or tubal ligation clips are generally safe to have a MRI

In most cases, a full exam of the foot and ankle via MRI lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

Ultrasound is a very effective tool for diagnosing a wide variety of foot and ankle problems, particularly soft tissue problems. Ultrasound uses sound waves on the body in a way much like radar uses sound waves. The waves hit a targeted area and are bounced back to a recording device, which produces an image. Ultrasound is a completely safe, noninvasive, and painless diagnostic procedure.

Common problems for which ultrasound may be prescribed include:

  • Bursitis
  • Heel spurs or plantar fasciitis
  • Injuries of the ligaments, tendons, or cartilage
  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Presence of foreign bodies
  • Soft tissue masses
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendonitis or tears in a tendon

X-rays help determine whether a bone has been fractured or damaged by conditions such as an infection, arthritis, or other disease.

Other reasons for conventional X-rays on your feet are to:

  • Evaluate changes in the bones from infections, arthritis, or other bone disease
  • Assess whether a child’s bones are growing normally
  • Locate foreign objects (such as pieces of glass or metal) in a wound
  • Determine whether bones are properly set after treating a fracture
  • Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having X-rays because the radiation may harm the unborn child