Musculoskeletal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an imaging procedure that provides high-quality images of the bones, joints, muscles, tendons and cartilage. This examination is highly accurate, and can investigate conditions such as tendon and ligament tears, meniscal tear, subtle fracture, bone tumor or musculoskeletal infection.

A Musculoskeletal MRI can be conducted on any part of the musculoskeletal system, but is most commonly conducted on the knee, shoulder, hip, ankle, elbow and wrist joints.

Because there is no ionizing radiation used in an MRI exam, Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a very popular tool in the medical community. In addition, MRI is a totally painless exam and has no known side effects.

When would I get a Musculoskeletal MRI?

MRI of the musculoskeletal system is highly accurate for diagnosing the cause of bone/joint pain or other symptoms and is helpful to your doctor in confirming their diagnosis and deciding on the best management and treatment.

Your medical provider may recommend a Musculoskeletal MRI in order evaluate:

  • joint disorders such as degenerative arthritis
  • tears of the menisci, ligaments and tendons (knee) or rotator cuff (shoulder) and labrum (shoulder or hip)
  • fractures (in selected patients)
  • spinal disk abnormalities (such as a herniated disk)
  • the integrity of the spinal cord after trauma
  • sports-related injuries and work-related disorders caused by repeated strain, vibration or forceful impact
  • infections (such as osteomyelitis)
  • tumors (primary tumors and metastases) involving soft tissues around the joints and extremities (such as muscles, bones and joints)
  • pain, swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around the joints and extremities.

What Will I Experience?

MRI exams are painless. However, some patients find it challenging to remain still. Others may feel closed-in (claustrophobia) or anxious while in a conventional closed MRI scanner. The scanner can be noisy. Nervous or anxious patients may be offered a mild sedative.

A patient may also ask their medical provider to prescribe a mild sedative to take before the exam.  If a mild sedative is taken, the patient will need to have someone drive them to our center and take them home once the exam is done.

It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm. It is important that you remain perfectly still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position as much as possible.

You will usually be alone in the exam room during the MRI procedure. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a two-way intercom.

You will be offered earplugs or a headset to reduce the noise of the MRI, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well-lit. Some of our scanners have music you can listen to during the test.

If you have an exam that requires an injection of intravenous contrast material, it is normal to feel coolness and a flushing sensation for a minute or two following the injection. The intravenous needle may cause you some discomfort when it is inserted and once it is removed, you may experience some bruising. There is also a very small chance of irritation of your skin at the site of the IV tube insertion.

Typically, this type of MRI exam will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete.