Did you know that knee pain is one of the most common health concerns that causes many to schedule an appointment with a knee doctor? That’s because knee pain can affect every aspect of your daily life, from walking and exercising to sitting and standing. The knee is a strong joint that bears the weight of most of your body and experiences a significant amount of wear and tear throughout your lifetime. The good news is, knee pain and injuries are generally quite treatable when addressed early on, and one way to get started with treatment is by getting an MRI on your knee.
What Exactly Is an MRI?
An MRI refers to magnetic resonance imaging, which is a type of diagnostic imaging technology used to provide your doctor with detailed scans and images of affected areas. The MRI machine functions similarly to an X-ray, but unlike an X-ray that only shows images of bones, an MRI also allows doctors to see muscles, tendons, ligaments, soft tissues, and cartilage as well. MRI scans can help your doctor rule out certain injuries or problems while determining the most accurate diagnosis.
Why You Might Need a Knee MRI
There are a number of reasons for experiencing pain in your knee joint. An injury to the knee is an obvious example of why you may need an MRI. However, there are also other problems that can occur in the knee including torn tendons or ligaments, arthritis, an infection, or even a bone fracture. In addition to experiencing pain in your knee, other common indications that you should seek medical treatment include swelling around the knee or difficulty bearing weight.
The cartilage that separates and cushions the bones within the knee joint can wear away with time and overuse, and the pain you are experiencing may be the bones rubbing against one another. Twisting your knee, also known as a sprain, can put stress on the tendons in your knee and even cause a tear, which would lead to significant discomfort. Depending on the injury or problem you may be experiencing, your doctor may want to schedule an MRI so they can get a more detailed picture of what is going on in the knee area.
How to Prepare for an MRI
Unlike other medical procedures, you are generally allowed to eat, drink, and take any prescribed medications as usual before an MRI scan. You will likely be recommended to wear a gown or soft, loose clothing without any metal zippers or grommets. No metal, including jewelry, metal on clothing, hearing aids, or even glasses are allowed in the MRI machine because it uses strong magnets to produce the images. It is important to let your doctor know if you have any metal implants or medical devices in your body before you have the test. Additionally, if you have a history of experiencing claustrophobia in small spaces, it is best to let your doctor know beforehand so they may offer you some medication to calm your nerves.
What Happens in an MRI?
The MRI machine looks like a large hollow tube and you will lie on a table that slides into the structure. Specifically for a knee MRI, you will likely go in feet first and can generally expect the lower half of your body to be inside of the tube. It is important to anticipate the scan taking between 30 and 90 minutes depending on the types of scans and images requested by your doctor. During the MRI test itself, you will be asked to hold very still while the scan is in progress. A technician will be in an adjacent room and speaking with you through a two-way microphone to walk you through the process and answer any questions or concerns you may have during the experience.
Sometimes your doctor may request an MRI with contrast, which means you will be injected with a dye before the MRI scan. This dye will provide a greater contrast in the images produced by the MRI scan so your doctor can gain more information about the affected area. The dye may help provide more clarity to a specific area of the knee. Your doctor and the MRI technician will speak with you in detail if and when a contrast dye is part of your knee MRI.
After the knee MRI, a radiologist and your doctor will review the MRI scan results before sharing them with you. It can take 24 hours for your doctor to receive the results and you will likely come in for a follow-up appointment within a week or two to discuss the results of the knee MRI and its implications on your treatment plan. The knee MRI will help provide your doctor with a significant amount of information and they will be able to develop an individual treatment plan that will address the pain, resolve any injury, and help provide healing and restoration to the area so you can go about your daily activities again. Call us today to know more.