What does a Knee MRI Show?

Radiologists use regular X-rays to examine fractured bones caused by trauma. Yet for the components within the joints and between the bones, MRI can provide more detail. A knee MRI can detect:

  • Meniscus tear or injury
  • Tendon injury
  • Ligament tears
  • Soft tissue swelling
  • Hemarthrosis

Subtle injuries commonly occurring in the knee include meniscus, tendons, and ligament tears. The meniscus is the cushion between the knee bones, while ligaments are the fibrous bands that hold the joints together, and the tendons connect bones to muscles. These are all best evaluated by MRI. Furthermore, if the MRI results show 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 for future surgery.

Sometimes an MRI only shows swelling of these soft tissue structures, rather than 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 a Knee MRI Is Performed

The Women’s Imaging Center performs all knee MRI scans at the Denver/Cherry Creek center.

Before the MRI

Please tell us about any medical conditions and prior surgery you have had. Certain items or situations may prevent you from getting the MRI since they can interfere with the magnets. These include:

  • Metal or metal fragments: Tell us about any metal or metal fragments in your body, such as those that resulted from an accident. If you are a current or former metal worker, let us know. You could have small metal fragments in your eyes due to an occupational hazard. We may ask to do an X-ray prior to performing the MRI.
  • Planted devices: These may include 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 could prevent you from having an MRI. For safety, all jewelry and piercings must be removed.
During the MRI

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.

The magnets of the MRI machine make a loud, clunking sound. Our technologists will provide you with headphones so you can listen to music to block out the noise. Many patients fall asleep. Sudden movements may cause irregularities in the images, so you’ll need to remain as still as possible.

After the MRI

The MRI will produce hundreds of images of the knee in various sequences. The radiologist will need time to interpret the images, so your results won’t be available right away. We will reach out when they are ready. We’ll also notify your ordering physician, who will be in touch to discuss your results and next steps.

Get a Knee MRI Scan in Denver

You Can Meet Our Specialists

At The Women’s Imaging Center, we consider it our privilege to care for all patients. We have decades of experience in women's imaging and are dedicated to providing top-level care to all women. Our dedicated team of radiologists, technicians, and staff bring their expertise to knee MRIs and other advanced imaging services.

Kelly McAleese, M.D.

Timothy Colt, M.D.

Barbara Jaegar, M.D.

John Lewin, M.D.


Frequently Asked Questions About Knee MRIs

When would I need a Knee MRI?

A Knee 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. 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 which are all best evaluated by MRI. However, sometimes an MRI only shows swelling of these soft tissue structures and not a tear. Ask your doctor to see if an MRI is the right imaging exam for you. 

How is a knee MRI performed?

During a knee MRI, the patient lies on a table that slides into a tunnel-like machine. The machine creates a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the knee. The procedure is painless, but patients may need to hold still for an extended period of time.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with knee MRI?

Knee MRI is generally considered safe and non-invasive. However, patients who have metal implants or devices, such as pacemakers, may not be able to undergo an MRI. Patients may also experience claustrophobia or anxiety during the procedure, but this can usually be managed with medication or relaxation techniques.

Insurance Options We Honor

At the Women's Imaging Center, we accept most major insurance providers and provide affordable self-pay options. If you have any questions about whether we accept your insurance, please contact us at 303-321-2273.

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