An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the knee uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the inside of your knee and the surrounding anatomy. Your doctor may recommend a knee MRI in a variety of different situations. To prepare, here’s what you need to know.

Why Do You Need a Knee MRI?

A knee MRI creates more detailed imagery than a traditional x-ray, and it’s safer because it doesn’t use any radiation. Healthcare providers use knee MRIs to assess and diagnose a number of issues including the following:

  • Damage to the knee’s cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or meniscus
  • Sports injuries
  • Knee pain
  • Fluid buildup in your knee
  • Infections
  • Issues with a range of motion
  • Prepare for knee surgery
  • Follow up after knee surgeries

How Does a Knee MRI Work?

With a knee MRI, special scanning equipment takes images of your knee. The technologist may use a special coil that acts as an antenna to help focus the power of the magnetic and radio waves to your knee to help shorten the scan times and produce higher quality images.

The MRI software transfers the images to a HIPAA compliant computer. A radiologist then reviews the images on a high-resolution monitor to assess the soft tissue of the joint.

With a traditional MRI machine, you lie on a cushioned table that will move into the scanner so the technologist can capture images of your knee. The technologist will communicate with you throughout the exam and check to see how you are doing. It’s important to be as still as possible during this part of the exam so we can capture the highest quality images for the doctor of radiology to interpret.

There are also Stand-up MRI machines and upright-open MRI machines for patients who are claustrophobic, cannot lie down comfortably, or whose size prevents them from being evaluated in a traditional MRI scanner. During these scans, you can stand or sit, with an unobstructed view forward. In some locations, you can even watch TV during most exams.

How Should You Prepare for a Knee MRI?

To prepare for a knee MRI, talk with your doctor about what to expect. Let your doctor know if you have any metal on or inside your body including ear implants, clips for brain aneurysms, and/or a pacemaker. At the start of the MRI, a technologist will have you remove items such as jewelry, metal zippers, and metal hair items. Also, remember not to wear make-up as that can disrupt the imaging process. MRI exams require no special preparation. Eat and drink normally and follow your prescribed medication dosing unless your doctor advises otherwise.

What Happens During a Knee MRI?

The technologist will help you lay comfortably on a cushioned table, offer you earplugs or headphones and a blanket to make sure you are comfortable. A standard knee MRI will take approximately 30 minutes and there is no pain involved in the exam.

Depending on your doctor’s orders, MRI contrast (a special dye that helps highlight your anatomy) may be needed. Contrast will be administered through an IV placed in your hand or arm before your exam. The contrast helps highlight the anatomy of your knee in the images that are captured.

What Happens After a Knee MRI?

After your knee MRI, the technologist will escort you to the changing room so you can change and gather your belongings. Most patients do not require sedation and will be able to drive immediately following the exam. If you do require a sedative to relax, however, please arrange for a friend or relative to drive you home.

Your images are electronically sent to our radiologists who will review the images and prepare a detailed report for your physician. Within 24 hours your doctor will have the results from your knee MRI. You should plan to have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results and a care plan.

Need a knee MRI? Want to order a knee MRI for your patients? At American Health Imaging, we work with doctors and patients to provide the answers they need to guide your care.

Contact us today to schedule a knee MRI.