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MRI Knee without Contrast

A knee MRI scan without contrast is an imaging exam that explicitly examines the knee, knee joint, and surrounding areas. The images show the soft tissues and bones of the knee joint, a hinge synovial joint that connects the femur (upper leg), tibia (lower leg), and patella (kneecap). The knee joint also contains some soft tissues and muscle, which allow extension, flexion, medial and lateral rotations. MRI scans utilize radio waves and magnets to capture photographs of the soft tissue (like organs and muscles) and bones inside your body. This procedure allows doctors to diagnose complications in your knee and knee joints. MRIs are usually used as a follow-up test after an X-ray is done and appears normal, but the issue persists.
Your doctor might order an MRI scan of your knee to scan for abnormalities in your knee joint. The MRI will allow doctors to observe the anatomy of your knee to determine the possible reasons for your pain, inflammation, or knee complications without surgery. A knee MRI is usually ordered to help doctors diagnose and treat many types of conditions such as bone fractures, infection, arthritis, and other degenerative joint disorders, damage to your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, the reduced motion of the knee joint, fluid buildup in the knee, problems with implanted medical devices, sports injury, and tumors.
An MRI is usually used after an X-ray has been unable to diagnose knee problems. Your doctor may order a knee MRI scan if they suspect the following:
  • Soft-tissue changes
  • Bone density: MRIs aren't enough for evaluating bone quality. A bone density test is required for that, but it can detect abnormalities (e.g., certain bone disorders, bone thinning, osteoporosis).
  • Alignment issues
  • Joint spaces
  • Early arthritis signs
  • Injury/fracture: MRIs show evidence of trauma to the bone, including fractures.
There is no need to prepare for this exam. However, you have to change into a hospital gown and remove jewelry and piercings before the scan. Tell your doctor if you have artificial heart valves, implants, plates, prosthetic joints or limbs, or stents in your body since an MRI machine uses magnets. Also, tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker. Another imaging exam can be used to inspect your knee, such as a CT scan. However, some models are re-programmable, so they're not a hindrance to the scan. If you're claustrophobic, being in the MRI machine can be triggering. In this case, you can get anti-anxiety medications or even be sedated for the exam.
The MRI technician will ask you to lay on your back on a table in the MRI machine. The technician may use pillows or support to make your knee more comfortable during the test and help keep your leg still so the machine can take the most precise MRI images. The technician will then control the bench's movement from another room and slide the table into the MRI machine. They will also communicate with you through a speaker in the MRI machine. The process usually takes half an hour to an hour. The machine will make some loud and repetitive humming noises as the MRI image is obtained. You have access to a call button in case you become uneasy during the test. If you are sedated, your heartbeat, breathing, and oxygen levels will all be monitored during the exam for your safety. The MRI technician may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds during the exam.
The MRI technologist will give your MRI images to a radiologist trained to interpret scans and write a report on them. Usually, this will take one or two days; however, if the MRI was done on an emergency basis, the MRI facility could provide the results quickly. Your doctor will then receive the report and discuss it with you and explain the findings. The MRI results will help the doctor diagnose whether you have sustained a bone fracture, have an infection, arthritis, or other degenerative joint disorders.