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Assessing the Need: Orthopaedic Tests and Diagnoses

Depending upon the diagnosis following your examination, tests can be requested by a ProMedica Physician. Generally, the testing and diagnostic process begins with a referral to one of our specialists, followed by an on-site, in-person evaluation. Subsequent tests may be administered in the doctor’s office and in combination with a ProMedica Laboratories and Radiological facility.

Given the range of orthopaedic conditions treated by ProMedica health care teams (arthritis, hip and knee pain, sports-related injuries, osteoporosis), the test most appropriate for you may take only a few minutes or significantly longer. When possible and with your convenience in mind, the tests are scheduled on the same day of your evaluation.

Types of tests and diagnoses

Diagnostic Exams

Your physician can tell a lot about your health by looking at you. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, obvious signs and symptoms include weak (atrophied) or asymmetrical muscles, improper alignment, swelling, changes in skin color (such as bruises or redness that might indicate inflammation) and growths such as cysts, calluses or corns. But a physical examination is more than just a cursory look. It also can involve gait analysis (how you walk), palpation, muscle testing, flexibility (range of motion) testing, reflex response and laboratory tests such as a complete blood count and urine analysis.

We’ve summarized the basics behind some common diagnostic tests:


Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure used to visualize, diagnose and treat problems inside a joint. An orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision in your skin and inserts pencil-sized instruments that contain a small lens and lighting system to magnify and illuminate the structures inside the joint. Light is transmitted through fiber optics to the end of the arthroscope inserted into the joint.

Bone Scan

A bone scan is a procedure that measures bone turnover. Identifying abnormalities in bones can help physicians locate inflammation, fractures and diagnose certain conditions in including cancer. During the procedure, a small amount of radioactive material is injected. This material can then be detected by a Gamma camera. The amount of radioactive material in the bones can reveal abnormalities that aid in diagnosis.

Blood Tests

As part of your examination, your ProMedica Physician may order blood tests. Some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be identified by the presence of a specific substance. In some cases, you may be asked to fast prior to the test.

Computed Tomography Scan (also called a CT or CAT scan)

A CT scan (computed tomography) combines X-rays with computer technology to produce a detailed, cross-sectional image of your body. It may be ordered if your ProMedica Physician if he or she suspects a tumor or a fracture that doesn’t appear on X-rays or if you have had severe trauma to the chest, abdomen, pelvis or spinal cord.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. It does not use radiation (X-rays). Single MRI images are called slices. The images can be stored on a computer or printed on film. One exam produces dozens or sometimes hundreds of images.


X-rays (radiographs) are the most common diagnostic imaging technique. Regardless of the source or level of your pain, your ProMedica Physician may order radiographs to look for broken bones.

Other Tests

Other tests that may be ordered by your ProMedica Physician include:

  • Arthrography
  • Blood tests
  • Discography
  • Doppler Ultrasound
  • Dual-Photon Absorptiometry
  • Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry
  • Electromyography
  • Flexibility Tests
  • Intrathecal Contrast Enhanced CT Scan
  • Joint Aspiration and Analysis
  • Laboratory Studies
  • Muscle Tests
  • Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
  • Palpation
  • Peripheral Bone Density Testing
  • Quantitative Computed Tomography
  • Range of Motion Testing
  • Single Photon Absorptiometry
  • Stress Tests
  • Ultrasonography
  • Venography

Bones, Joints and Muscles Toolkit

Use the tools below to learn more about how to take care of your bones, joints and muscles.

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