What Does a Hip MRI Show?
Certain conditions, such as degenerative arthritis or bone fracture, can be best evaluated with regular X-rays. However, standard medical diagnostic imaging cannot assess all symptoms. A hip MRI can better visualize and evaluate the joint and soft tissue components with more detailed imaging. MRI of the hip allows us to look at:
- Cartilage tears
- Acetabular labrum tears
- Torn ligaments or tendons
- Sports injuries
- Tumor diagnosis
Subtle hip injuries may involve the cartilage (the slippery protective covering of the femoral head and the acetabulum). Sometimes, the cushion between the hip bones, called the acetabular labrum, can tear. A part of the folded labrum or a fragment may produce a clicking or catching sensation or pain when you walk or run. With major sports injuries, the ligaments (fibrous bands that connect the bones of the hip joint) or the tendons (fibrous collagen that connects the bones to the hip muscles) can sometimes be sprained or torn.
A specific type of hip injury from trauma or overuse that affects the vascular supply of the bone is called avascular necrosis and is also best evaluated by MRI. This condition can be seen in runners and with long-term corticosteroid use.
MRI is also used to diagnose a medical condition and help with treatment planning. MRI can determine whether an acute (sudden) or long-standing (chronic) labrum cartilage tear may cause an athlete's pain. The procedure can identify a tear within the hip joint, including details on its severity. If you need surgery, MRI scan images give an orthopedic surgeon a more detailed map.
MRI can be used as a diagnostic scan to diagnose tumors. If a tumor is suspected based on your symptoms, an oncologic orthopedic surgeon who specializes specifically in tumors of the bones, joints, and supporting soft tissues may order a specific type of hip MRI. The tumor MRI protocol usually requires intravenous contrast to show vessels. Your MRI technologist will explain what protocol is indicated.
How a Hip MRI Is Performed
We will ask about any medical conditions and prior surgery you have had. Certain items or situations can affect the magnets in the MRI and preclude you from getting the test. These include:
- Metal or metal fragments: Please let us know if you have in your body metal or metal fragments from an accident or trauma. Metal workers could have small metal fragments in their eyes as an occupational hazard. Before performing the MRI, we may need to do an X-ray to check.
- Planted devices, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, aneurysm clips, auditory hearing implants, neurotransmitters, internal wires or electrodes, implanted pumps or ports, surgical mesh, or any coils, stents, or filters. Many newer models of pacemakers and defibrillators are compatible with MRI. Speak with your doctor about which kind you have.
- Tattoos or piercings: Permanent piercings or certain types of body or face/makeup tattooing may prevent you from having an MRI. All jewelry and piercings must be removed for your safety.
Please see our MRI Safety Form for more information.
The MRI scan imaging time may take 25 -35 minutes, depending on whether special imaging sequences or contrast administration are needed. The indication for the study may affect the time required to perform the hip imaging scan.
During an MRI, the magnets make a loud, clunking sound. Our technologists will provide you with headphones so you can listen to music. With the distraction of the music, many patients find they are soothed to sleep. Sudden movements may cause irregularities in the images, so we ask that you remain as still as possible.
Advanced Hip MRI in Denver
Meet Our Specialists
Kelly McAleese, M.D.
Timothy Colt, M.D.
Barbara Jaegar, M.D.
John Lewin, M.D.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hip MRIs
A Hip MRI is a radiology imaging examination used to diagnose a complaint or symptom. In Colorado’s active population, hip complaints are common from trauma, overuse, and arthritis. Your clinician may order an MRI to evaluate hip pain after sudden trauma like an accident or sports injury.
MRI is also used to evaluate long-standing complaints such as arthritis. The technology can evaluate fluid in the joint easily and even distinguish whether that fluid represents blood (called hemarthrosis) or inflammation (called bursitis).
You will be asked to complete the medical history of any underlying medical conditions. 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.
Tell us if you have had any surgery or other procedures anywhere on your body, including your limbs, abdomen, brain, or heart.
If you have any implanted 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 designs such as body or face/ makeup tattooing, and permanent piercings may limit you from having the MRI. Current or prior metal workers may have small fragments in their eyes as an occupational hazard. You may be asked to have an x-ray prior to performing the MRI. Jewelry and piercings need to be taken out by you for your safety prior to the MRI exam.