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July 18, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

How Much Does a Knee MRI Cost?

Radiology refers to the medical discipline that employs the use of medical imaging to understand and thereby diagnose medical conditions. Radiology is therefore a separate branch of medicine dedicated to showing and contrasting between normal and abnormal body functioning.

The word radiology is often used synonymously with X-rays. X-rays are ionizing radiation rays that were once the mainstay in radiological techniques. Patients were basically made to stand on one end of a screen and have X-rays directed at them while an image was produced on the other end.

The image that was produced was based on the relative thickness of the structures in the path of the X-rays. X-rays were long considered revolutionary for the world of medical imaging, that is until it was discovered that the ionizing radiation caused more harm than it did good.

What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an imaging modality that employs the use of radio waves instead of X-rays. The basic principle of the imaging modality is based on the belief that every atom holds the capacity to function as an independent magnetic field.

Isaac Rabi was the first person who theorized the idea that if an external source provides enough energy to induce a change in the direction of the atom, the atom will transmit the same amount of energy back to come to its original state.

An MRI scanner is a hollowed-out tube that employs the use of radio waves to realign protons in the human body. The protons then retransmit the energy that they’ve absorbed. The energy is detected on a scanner.

MRI Scanning of the Knee

Reports estimate that around 6.6 million US citizens are hospitalized every year for knee-related injuries. The most common diagnoses are strains and sprains to the ligaments constituting 42% of total hospital visits. Then, abrasions and lacerations with 27% and 10% incidents, respectively.

Most of these injuries are sustained during athletic activities, some from road traffic accidents, and some at home during heavy lifting or repeated stresses. There are also certain conditions (such as osteoporosis) that debilitate the use of the knee and need to be examined further.

MRI scans of the knee are often indicated when your physician suspects an underlying pathology that might limit the use of your knee or restrict it in motion and function. Your physician might advise an MRI scan if he or she suspects a condition in case a regular sprain does not heal in a reasonable time frame.

Ice, rest, and rehabilitation are often indicated for sprain and inflammation of the knee joint. If, however, the inflammation persists longer than reasonable your physician might suspect an infection or tumor for which an MRI scan would be necessary.

Other Options

Other diagnostic modalities include invasive and non-invasive testing. Non-invasive testing includes MRIs, X-rays, and other imaging modalities. They’re made invasive only when a special dye has to be injected for contrast imaging.

Invasive medical technology includes the use of needles for sample testing, tissue sampling, and the works. Invasive procedures such as FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology) for tumor sampling are painful even under anesthesia.

Between X-rays and MRI scans, MRI scans are often advised because they are not as hazardous as ionizing radiations. They do not disrupt the normal body cells and tissues; that might metastasize if radiation exceeds a certain limit.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) modalities are therefore better options for patients.

Common Knee-Related Pathologies

  • Swelling: unexplainable, does not subside on its own
  • Damaged cartilages, tendons, and ligaments
  • Bleeding: uncontrollable, no clotting
  • Fractures: X-rays are often advised
  • Damage from osteological conditions  osteoporosis
  • Damage from rheumatological conditions :arthritis
  • Athletic injuries
  • Infectious diseases: osteomyelitis
  • Prognosis of previous knee injuries
  • Prognosis of previous knee surgeries
  • Tumors: differentiating between benign and metastatic ones

How Much Does a Knee MRI Cost?

Knee MRI scan cost between $250 to $1000 based upon the treatment center you’re visiting and the area or state you’re living in. States with more MRI scanning facilities per unit population tend to price their scanning at lower rates for competitive marketing than other states.

Hospital costs for MRI scanning are often significantly more than standalone and freestanding clinics. Your insurance also plays a factor here. If you have insurance with a high deductible, you might need to consider cheaper options such as freestanding clinics.

Additionally, MRI scanning with contrast costs more than MRI scanning without contrast. Contrast MRIs are often indicated to study soft tissue injuries and prognosis of soft tissue diseases or to study the normal functioning of a joint.

Preparing for an MRI

MRI scanning is a non-invasive, painless, and quick procedure that usually takes between fifteen to forty-five minutes. The technician will ask you to fill a form to indicate whether or not you have any metallic prosthesis that cannot be removed (in which case you will not be allowed to have an MRI done), and if you’re suffering from claustrophobia or any other condition that might hinder the process.

When Should You Get an MRI Done?

Your regular care physician would typically advise an MRI scan of the knee if he or she suspects an underlying pathology that is not consistent with either their initial diagnosis or that might elaborate on the healing time and prognosis of your knee condition (unexplained swelling, tumors, etc).

Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.