How Do I Know If I Need An MRI On My Knee?

Article by Zoe Russell

How Do I Know If I Need An MRI On My Knee?

After having a knee injury, you will often wonder if you should have scans, and often many people ask whether we should have an MRI?

Through a thorough discussion of your knee and the objective testing your physiotherapist performs, a clinical diagnosis will often be sufficient to diagnose your injury and provide your treatment plan. Part of this assessment that your physiotherapist performs will include a discussion of whether you require imaging for your injury. While various imaging tests can be a valuable part of your management plan for your knee injury, the imaging tests should be condition-prioritised. Your skilled healthcare practitioner considers the clinical evaluation to determine that the best imaging modality (e.g. X-Ray, CT, MRI, Ultrasound) is specific to your problem.

A simple rule for choosing whether to have an MRI of the knee is

“imaging should exclude or rule out an injury that would change your management plan or require medical intervention”.

Another reason you may choose to obtain imaging on your knee is that, despite a well-considered management plan, it is failing to respond in the way we would expect based on the diagnosis.

If you have a trauma, and there is a deformity of your knee, or you cannot weight bear on your knee, it may be beneficial to obtain Plain Radiographs, known as X -Rays. A series of Rules, known as the Ottawa Knee Rules, that your physiotherapist will use to help determine if you need a Radiograph.

Suppose you have an injury, and your knee is giving way, collapsing, locking or even stuck and cannot move. In that case, your Physiotherapist or Doctor will often suggest MRI ascertain if your injury requires specialist intervention to assist in your recovery. The most common example of this is when you have a locked knee that is the result of an injury to the meniscus, the MRI will be required urgently to quickly ascertain if you need to proceed to the specialist sooner, as this type of injury is less amenable to non – surgical care.

There are always rare conditions that can present, and the knee is a joint that is known to succumb to conditions such as infections and even gout! In these cases, MRI cannot distinguish between conditions, and it may be more appropriate to have blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and appropriately direct management!

Whilst investigations of knee pain can be required for your injury, it is often best to discuss your injury with your physiotherapist so that they can assess your knee and provide guidance on the best-suited imaging modality to your problem to expedite your recovery!

So please don’t delay in seeing your knee physiotherapist for their opinion on your knee pain.

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