Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Musculoskeletal (MSK)

What is a Musculoskeletal (MSK) MRI?

A musculoskeletal MRI is the diagnostic imaging of the musculoskeletal system by using radio waves and magnetism to produce high resolution, three-dimensional images of the extremities, joints, muscles and other surrounding tissues.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

A musculoskeletal MRI is most commonly used to assess bone tumors, osteomyelitis, muscular atrophy, internal derangement or tears in the surrounding tissues and structures.  Patients who undergo a musculoskeletal MRI usually complain of persistent or chronic joint pain.  A musculoskeletal MRI of a joint is often done in conjunction with an arthrogram, a fluoroscopic procedure done prior to the MRI that involves injecting a dye-like contrast material that will appear on the MRI images directly into the joint space (see Arthrogram listed under Fluoroscopy services for more information).

How should I prepare for the procedure?

There is no special preparation required for a musculoskeletal MRI.  Food and fluid intake do not need to be restricted.

Please inform your physician or technologist if you are claustrophobic, or if you have a pacemaker, aneurysm clips or any metallic implants.  You should also inform your physician or technologist if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant.

What will I experience during the procedure?

Once you arrive in the MRI department, you will be asked to change into a gown and to remove any jewelry or metallic objects.  A technologist or nurse may start an IV, so that a contrast media can be injected during your scan if necessary.  You will be asked to lie on your back or on your stomach on a sliding MRI table that allows the technologist to move you into the MRI machine.  You will be asked to hold very still for the duration of the exam, which usually takes about 45 minutes.  You may experience a cool sensation if any contrast is injected into your veins, and your body may feel an overall warmth as the scan is performed.  The MRI machine will make a series of loud, repetitive knocking sounds.  Teh technologist will offer you foam earplugs or a stereo headset to mask the noise.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A radiologist will interpret the exam, and a signed report will be sent to your physician who will discuss the results with you.