Weight-bearing lower extremity CTs: state of the art diagnostic test available at UFAI

If you’ve ever had to get a CT (computed tomography) scan done, you know the drill. You are asked to position yourself on a table with a narrow gurney that slides you into the scanner like a pizza getting shoved into the oven.  Even if you undergo an “open” CT, you must lie down and slide whatever body part they’re examining under the scanner beam. 

According to a presenter at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society’s 2020 annual meeting, the traditional CT is quickly becoming a diagnostic imaging modality of the past. That’s because weight-bearing CT scans are an emerging technology that will soon become the standard of care in foot and ankle surgery.  And now Southern Californians can benefit from this state-of-the-art CT technology available at UFAI. 

Introducing the pedCAT weight-bearing CT scanner made by Curvebeam in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. The founders of Curvebeam pioneered cone-beam computed tomography which revolutionized the dental field by making portable, high precision cone-beam CT scans available in dental offices worldwide. With their recent introduction of the pedCAT weight-bearing CT scanner, they’re now revolutionizing the orthopedic field.

What’s a weight-bearing CT?

A weight-bearing CT (WBCT for short) is a specially designed CT scanner that allows you to stand on a platform within the scanner that directs its beam directly onto your foot and ankle joint area. Both of your feet can be scanned in a matter of 19 seconds and just 3 minutes later, radiologists and doctors can view highly detailed 3-D images of one or both of your feet FROM ANY ANGLE.

Why is it important to get weight-bearing images of my foot and ankle?

A CT scan that is taken when you are standing naturally reveals much more accurate information about your anatomy than a conventional CT study done with you lying face-up on a table with gravitational forces pulling on the back of your heels. 

By scanning your feet with you standing as you would naturally, your doctor gets to see a functional view of how your bones relate to one another under the load of your body weight. Pictures taken in a weight-bearing position disclose bone deformities or joint space narrowing that might not be visible when you’re lying down. 

Using plain x-rays to diagnose your foot problem is like playing poker with only half a deck…

A weight-bearing CT provides much more detailed views than are obtainable with a traditional x-ray, which is the diagnostic tool most commonly used at podiatry practices today. This becomes important when looking at tiny structures like the rice grain-sized sesamoid bones located in the forefoot below the big toe. 

Another limitation of plain radiographs, even if they are weight-bearing radiographs, is that they create 2-D images that can misrepresent the anatomy. This is because, in a flat image, the foot bones appear distorted and superimposed over each other, opening the door to misinterpretation of the image and thus, misdiagnosis. 

Why is the weight-bearing CT better than a traditional CT in evaluating foot and ankle conditions?

There are four advantages that weight-bearing CTs have over traditional CT scans when it comes to evaluating foot and ankle conditions. 

  • The weight-bearing CT makes it possible to take CT images of both feet at the same time. By being able to look at your well foot and your painful foot side by side, your doctor can pick up on subtle conditions that might not be readily visible when looking only at the sick foot. Say, for instance, slight external rotation or supination of one foot, or a difference in the midfoot or hindfoot alignment between your feet. 
  • Weight-bearing CT scans offer high-quality detailed 3D imaging that lets your doctor look at 1mm slices of your foot in different planes, which eliminates any confusion from overlapping bones or soft tissue, offering image clarity and reproducibility that are important for diagnosing subtle conditions as well as for surgical planning. 
  • A weight-bearing CT study allows your doctor to detect bone and joint malalignment problems apparent in a standing position that may not be visible in a traditional non-weight-bearing CT study. 
  • A weight-bearing CT has ultra-low radiation exposure as compared to a traditional CT scan because it is performed quickly and with a focused beam. This means that your radiation dose is much lower with a weight-bearing CT than with a traditional CT imaging.

There’s a growing body of medical studies citing the superiority of weight-bearing CT for diagnosing many foot and ankle conditions, including arthritisflat foot deformitybunions, chronic ankle instability, and subtle fractures, to name a few. 

UFAI: leading the way with state-of-the-art medicine

The University Foot and Ankle Institute is an internationally recognized medical facility for the treatment of foot and ankle problems. Our experienced team of specialists treats a wide range of foot and ankle problems, ranging from simple tendonitis conditions to bunions, heel pain, ankle sprains, and fractures, and even perform complex reconstructive surgery and limb salvage procedures of the foot and ankle. Our doctors are internationally recognized for their outstanding leadership and expertise in foot and ankle surgery. 

We pride ourselves in offering our patients cutting-edge technology, in-house diagnostic facilities, and unsurpassed surgical experience within a friendly, caring environment. Just ask our patients!

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

If you or anyone in your family are experiencing foot problems, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with a podiatrist, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

At University Foot and Ankle Institute, we take our patients’ safety seriously. Our facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all CDC recommendations. Masks are required in our institutes at all times

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