Knee MRI

Knee MRI

When is an MRI of The Knee Needed?

MRI is often used to find the reason for a complaint or symptom such as pain. For Colorado's active population, knee complaints are common from trauma or other causes. Your clinician may order an MRI to check the extent of the injury after a sudden trauma. MRI is useful to diagnose a ligament or meniscus tear and the degree of that tear. Radiologists can also use MRI to get a better look at a finding discovered by an x-ray.

To examine fractured bones caused by trauma, radiologists use regular X-rays. Yet, the components within the joints and between the bones need MRI to look further. Common subtle injuries to the knee are meniscus, tendons, and ligament tears. The meniscus is the cushion between the bones of the knee. While ligaments are the fibrous bands that hold the joints together. And the tendons are what connect bones to muscles. These are all best evaluated by MRI. Furthermore, if the MRI results state a meniscus tear within the knee joint, the MRI will be helpful to your orthopedic surgeon. The MRI gives an orthopedic surgeon a more detailed map to use for future surgery.

Sometimes an MRI only shows swelling of these soft tissue structures and not a tear. Injuries such as simple sprains and fluid within the joint will usually resolve on their own. Sprains may take time to heal and physical therapy may be beneficial. Fluid within the joint space can remain in the same area or diffuse within the surrounding soft tissues. If blood is present in the knee joint as a result of trauma it is called hemarthrosis.

How Does MRI of the Knee Work?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI for short) is a type of imaging scan. MRI machines use magnets and radio waves to produce detailed 3-D Imaging of the knee and joint space. These signals are then converted to images for the radiologists to interpret. MRI is commonly performed to distinguish normal tissues from injured tissues. MRI is also used as a medical diagnostic scan to find the reason for a complaint or symptom.

How to Prepare Ahead of Time:

The Women’s Imaging Center performs all their MRI's at the Denver/ Cherry Creek center. Before your appointment, one of our front desk staff members will give you an MRI safety form to fill out. This form is also on our website on our home page on the resources tab under patient forms if you'd like it sooner.

Please tell the scheduler and the technologist if you have any:

Metal in your body such as metal fragments from trauma or surgery that may be an issue for the “magnetic pull” of the MRI

  • If you have had any surgery anywhere on your body including your limbs, abdomen, brain, or heart. 
  • If you have any planted devices such as:
    • Pacemakers, defibrillators, aneurysm clips. 
    • Auditory hearing implants
    • Neurotransmitters
    • Internal wires or electrodes. 
    • Implanted pumps or ports 
    • Surgical mesh
    • Any coils, stents, or filters. 

Please tell your technologist before scheduling because an MRI may not be possible.

Many cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators are not compatible with MRI. Some of the newer devices are so it is important to know from your surgeon and the manufacturer what kind you have. 

  • Some external body wear or design such as:
    • body or face/ makeup tattoos
    • permanent piercings 

may limit you from having the MRI.

Jewelry and Other Metals:

Current or prior metal workers may have small fragments in their eyes. The technologist may need an x-ray before we perform the MRI. Jewelry and piercings need to be removed by you for your safety in the magnet. Please see our MRI SAFETY FORM for more information. If you do forget to remove them before the exam, we do have a safe space to leave them during your MRI. We do ask that you do your best to remember ahead of time to make the exam process smoother.

How is a Knee MRI Performed?

You will be lying on your back on a comfortable table that your technologist moves into and out of the MRI machine. The MRI technician will wrap a special flexible coil around your knee. The coil helps to get imaging information. The MRI magnet makes a loud clunky sound. The technologists will fit you with comfortable headphones. You may choose to listen to music through the headphones, making the magnet sound indistinct. Many patients actually find the exam soothing because of the music and may fall asleep. It is important not to move quickly or jerk during the exam. This may cause irregularities in the images from signals of the magnets moving.

How Long Does the MRI Take?

The MRI imaging may take 25 to 35 minutes depending on whether special imaging sequences are needed. The complexity of the joint or injury may affect the time needed to perform the imaging scan.

What if You are Claustrophobic?

Claustrophobia, “a fear of being in closed or narrow spaces”, is not uncommon. The MRI used at The Women’s Imaging Center has an especially wide bore (opening). So much that you can touch the sides with your outstretched arms. The MRI machine is also shorter than most MRI machines you would see at hospitals since we perform outpatient MRIs. The Espirit MRI is also called an “Open MRI Solution” by the manufacturer Siemens. Your head will be near the end of the magnet so you can see out. You will be talking with the MRI technologist during the entire exam. She can make any adjustments to make you more comfortable. The great majority of the time, no premedication is needed.

If you cannot perform the MRI without sedation, oral anxiety medication can be written. Our physicians or yours can write the prescription that you will need to pick up ahead of time. If you do need one from us, please let the scheduler know when booking your MRI. If you do take the prescription, you will need a driver. We are not permitted to let you drive yourself if you have taken any medications that may make you drowsy.

How Do I Get My Results?

Hundreds of MRI images in various sequences are produced for each MRI study that needs interpreting. Thus, the results will not be immediately available. An MRI specialist will call you about your results once the interpretation is complete. If you have any prior examinations elsewhere, please let us know the location so that we can get these for faster comparison. Images from other centers can transfer over to The Women’s Imaging Center. You may have to sign a release form so that we may request this transfer. We will also send a copy of your report to your ordering clinician. They will discuss any further action recommended based on your imaging results.


3773 Cherry Creek N. Dr. # 101
Denver, CO 80209

1265 Sergeant Jon Stiles Drive, Unit H
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

215 Union Blvd. Suite 100
Lakewood, CO 80228

9035 Wadsworth Parkway, Suite 2800
Westminster, CO 80021


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