Ankle and knee imaging

Ankle and knee imaging

About medical imaging

The ankle and knee are joints located in the lower leg. Injuries to these joints are very common reasons why people visit their GP or physiotherapist. Injuries that frequently affect these joints include ligament sprains, muscle and tendon strains, and damage to the meniscus (cartilage) in the knee.

Although these injuries are often painful and uncomfortable, they can usually be managed with rest, ice, support and a gradual return to physical activity.

In some cases, such as when the cause of the injury is unclear or the damage to the joint is complex, an imaging test, such as an X-ray, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended. However, research shows that in most cases of acute ankle and knee sprain/strain, having an X-ray or MRI does not change the treatment you receive or how fast you recover. In addition, having an X-ray you don’t need may expose you to unnecessary radiation.

In fact, for many sprains affecting the ankles and knees, taking a history and examining the joint is all that your health professional will need to do to determine the diagnosis and guide management.

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For health professionals  

An acute injury to the ankle or knee is usually caused by a single incident – for example, a twist, fall, excessive force or direct blow from a solid object – and results in a rapid onset of symptoms, usually within 48 hours.

In the decade to 2012, about 25% of the sprains/strains managed by Australian GPs (excluding those of the back) were related to the ankle or knee.

There is good evidence that history and physical examination by an experienced examiner can be as accurate as imaging for diagnosis of uncomplicated acute ankle and knee injuries. Most ankle sprains and many knee sprains respond well to simple treatments (eg, RICE) and other measures such as wearing a brace and/or physiotherapy.

Unless surgery is being considered, referral or request for imaging by a primary care provider may only add to cost and time without changing management at all.

Our CPD activities

Consolidate your knowledge about ankle and knee injuries and your imaging choices, brush up on current guidelines and practices and earn CPD points through our learning activities.

For your patients

Clinical information

Quality use of medical imaging means choosing the right imaging option for the patient and using it at the right time. We have compiled some of the latest evidence and guidelines on imaging for acute ankle and knee injuries to support discussions with your patients.

Related information - ankle and knee imaging


(Corporate information)
09 Dec 2016 In this issue: CEO Update │Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016│New program on ankle and knee imaging│ Choosing Wisely Australia│ Annual General Meeting