MRIs and Orthopedics

As orthopedic surgeons, we are charged with taking care of patients’ musculoskeletal system. That includes the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and skin. Many of the problems we see involve the joints, whether it’s a torn ACL on a football player or a torn rotator cuff on a baseball player or just the general wear and tear of osteoarthritis. The joints all involve soft tissues that we typically can’t see adequately on an x-ray. Sure, the x-rays detail the bones, but they don’t show soft tissues, such as cartilage and tendons.

That’s why we more often than not also need to have patients receive an MRI. Here’s a little more about that in this month’s blog.

What is an MRI scan?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. To create an MRI scan, the machine uses a large magnet combined with radio waves and computer technology. This produces sliced images of the body’s internal structures, which are then stitched together in the MRI system software to make a full diagnostic image of the targeted area.

How is an MRI different from a CT scan?

Some people think that MRIs and CT scans are interchangeable. They’re not. Both deliver high-resolution, quality images, but they do so completely differently. MRIs, as mentioned above, use radio waves and magnets. CT scans use specialized x-ray technology.

Those differences indicate when one is better than the other. MRIs are better with soft tissues, such as cartilage and ligaments. This is because of the radio waves.

CT scans show soft tissue, but not as well as an MRI. But they do show soft tissue in much greater clarity than a standard x-ray. CT scans, because they use x-ray technology, show excellent detail with bone.

What is an MRI used for in orthopedics?

These are good examples of the targets of orthopedic MRIs:

  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Feet
  • Thighs
  • Lower legs
  • Shoulders
  • Elbows
  • Wrists
  • Hands
  • Arms

When you come see our team at Urgent Orthopedics, and we suspect problems with your soft tissues, such as knee cartilage or ligaments, we’ll probably need to get an MRI of the area.

Do you have pain or other problems with your joints? Call us at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, (435) 520-3020, to make an appointment.

Posted in: Imaging

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