Using MRI to Diagnose Arthritis

In diagnosing arthritis or other joint disorders, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan can be helpful. An MRI scan is a test that produces very clear pictures of the human body without the use of X-rays. MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce these images.

 

 

Why Should I Get an MRI for Arthritis?

  • To detect arthritis. MRI can be helpful in evaluating joint damage, particularly damage to the spine, knee, or shoulder.
  • To track the progress of disease. In repeat scans, MRI can determine how fast the arthritis is progressing.

Is the MRI Exam Safe?

Yes. The MRI exam poses no risk to the average person if appropriate safety guidelines are followed. People who have had heart surgery and people with the following medical devices can be safely examined with MRI:

  • Surgical clips or sutures
  • Artificial joints
  • Staples
  • Cardiac valve replacements (except the Starr-Edwards metallic ball/cage)
  • Disconnected medication pumps
  • Vena cava filters
  • Brain shunt tubes for hydrocephalus

Some conditions may make an MRI exam inadvisable. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:

 

How Long Does the MRI Exam Take?

Allow two hours for your MRI exam. In most cases, the procedure takes 40 to 80 minutes and produces multiple images.

What Happens Before the MRI Exam?

Personal items such as your watch, wallet (including any credit cards with magnetic strips that can be erased by the magnet), and jewelry should be left at home if possible or removed prior to the MRI scan. Secured lockers are available to store personal possessions.

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What Happens During the MRI Exam?

You may be asked to wear a hospital gown during the MRI scan.

As the MRI scan begins, you will hear the equipment making a muffled thumping sound that will last for several minutes. Other than that sound, you should experience no unusual sensations during the scanning. Certain MRI exams require an injection of a contrast material. This helps identify certain anatomic structures on the scan images.

Feel free to ask questions and tell the technologist or doctor if you have any concerns.

What Happens After the MRI Exam?

After an MRI scan, your doctor will discuss the test results with you. Generally, you can resume your usual activities immediately.

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCE:
Radiological Society of North America.

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