1. Body Parts
  2. Calf - Left

Calf - Left

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Calf scans 101: leg medical imaging & more

Your calf muscles are essential in performing everyday movements. We often forget how important this muscle group is to our body’s function. It’s not until we injure this area that we truly understand the scope of the calf’s function. Although many people think calf pain is only associated with a strain, it’s not always that straightforward.

A calf scan will be able to get to the bottom of your calf pain and see if any abnormalities are occurring in your leg. If you are experiencing significant, prolonged, or worsening pain, it’s essential to have it examined.

Why do I need a calf scan?

If you are experiencing leg pain or recently suffered an injury to your calf, you may need a leg scan to ensure there's no significant damage to the area. 

Several nerves and blood vessels run through the leg to supply your lower body with blood. Blood clots can damage major blood vessels and pose considerable health risks. Excessive blood loss can cause cell death and even result in the need for limb amputation. In instances where there is a blood clot in your leg, the clot can travel to your heart or lungs and result in a heart attack. 

While blood clots in the leg are fairly rare, it’s crucial to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention if you are experiencing the following in your lower leg:

  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Stiffness.
  • Weakness.

Contact your doctor to have these symptoms examined.

What can a calf scan show?

A calf imaging scan will show images of the soft tissue structures, along with bones and muscles inside your leg. These include:

  • Tibia
  • Fibula
  • Muscles
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels

Your doctor will be able to see if any abnormalities are occurring within the leg or calf using a diagnostic imaging scan.

Common causes of leg & calf pain

There are several common causes of calf pain, including:

  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle or ligament tears
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Contusion or injury

Calf pain tends to present in similar ways, but its causes can be very different. A calf scan can help identify the exact cause of your pain and ensure the proper treatment plan is prescribed.

Common leg-related diagnoses

Sometimes, significant leg pain can be caused by more serious medical issues. Common leg pain diagnoses are:

  • Muscle or ligament tears.
  • Compartment syndrome (causing swelling in the calf muscle tissue).
  • Deep vein thrombosis/DVT (blood clot in the vein).
  • Bone fracture (from blunt force trauma).

These injuries require immediate medical intervention to ensure you make a full recovery.

Medical imaging scans for calf pain

Just like not all pain is the same, not all scans are the same. Different scans can capture images of different structures of the leg. The scan images help doctors determine the cause of your discomfort.

Leg MRI scans

A calf MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging scan, uses a magnetic field and radio waves to take images of your calf across 3 planes, or angles. These images are pieced together to form a 3D image of your calf. An MRI is able to identify issues in the:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerves
  • Ligaments

Calf & leg CT scans

A CT (computerized tomography) scan of the leg is similar to an MRI. However, a CT scan uses a concentrated X-ray beam to produce images of the structures inside the leg. CT scans are able to show:

  • Fractures
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Muscle or ligament damage
  • Vein blockages

Calf & leg ultrasounds

A calf ultrasound uses sound waves to generate pictures of the inside of the calf. Leg ultrasounds are great at spotting:

  • Soft tissue damage.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Blood clots.
  • Compressed nerves.
  • Stress fractures.

Ultrasounds are very sensitive, especially when it comes to viewing soft tissues near the skin's surface. They can provide an excellent picture of what is causing pain and can indicate if further imaging is necessary.

Find a leg medical imaging center near me

If you’re looking for a leg scan near you, check out scan.com’s scan search tool. Our directory of diagnostic imaging centers is easy to use and hassle-free.

Resources:
  1. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/tests/leg-mri-scan
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/calf-pain
  3. https://mrimaster.com/PLAN%20LOWER%20LEG.html
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/deep-venous-thrombosis