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MRI ARTHROGRAM: DIAGNOSING JOINT PAIN AND OSTEOARTHRITIS

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool for diagnosis and is often considered the best way to detect diseases in their earliest, most treatable stage. Using a strong magnetic field and radiofrequency waves, this technology can examine the soft tissues of the body along with the bones. 

An MRI arthrogram is an MRI scan that also includes the use of an injectable dye called contrast that is administered directly into a joint. Targeted joints will absorb and be enhanced by the contrast dye, allowing for a more detailed image. 

The exam uses Mayfair Diagnostics’ state-of-the-art equipment to offer a more comfortable imaging experience. It is often ordered when more detail is needed based on results of other studies or when the cause of symptoms is unclear during a physical exam. 

An MRI arthrogram might be requested to inspect the elements of the joint that may have been injured during physical activity or from wear and tear. This scan can provide detailed images of various sections of the joint, such as bones, cartilage, tendons, muscles, and ligaments.  

Most often this type of exam is used to help diagnose the cause of symptoms, such as persistent and unexplained pain, discomfort, loss of motion, or changes in the way the joint works. Your health care practitioner may request this scan to help diagnose and treat many types of conditions, including: 

  • Osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint disorders 
  • Bone fractures 
  • Osteonecrosis – when blood flow to part of a bone is reduced causing death of bone tissue 
  • Damaged cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or meniscus 
  • Fluid buildup 
  • Inflammation or infection 
  • Sports- or trauma-related injury 
  • Tumors 
  • Post-dislocation of the joint 

This scan may also be ordered before or after arthroscopic surgery. Your doctor may request other imaging tests, such as an X-ray or ultrasound, along with your MRI arthrogram. 

HOW DOES AN MRI WORK? 

An MRI scan creates images by exposing hydrogen atoms in water molecules within our body to a magnetic field which controls the direction and frequency at which hydrogen protons spin. A radio frequency pulse is then directed at a specific area of the body, while smaller magnets are used to alter the magnetic field on a small, but localized level. As tissues responds differently to these magnetic field alterations, a computer can convert the data into a picture. MRI is useful for assessing most body areas and is particularly useful as a sensitive, non-invasive way of imaging the joints.  

An MRI’s magnetic field strength is measured in tesla (T). In Alberta, we recently-installed a new, higher-strength 3 tesla (3T) MRI unit. Mayfair now operates both 1.5T and 3T MRI services at our Mayfair Place location in Calgary. The highly sensitive images from the 3T machine allows enhanced imaging of many areas of the body, including musculoskeletal imaging of joints and soft tissues. 

In Saskatchewan, Mayfair Diagnostics recently expanded our MRI services by opening a new, MRI-only clinic in Saskatoon in August 2020. With MRI services now available in Regina and Saskatoon, Mayfair is helping to improve access to MRI services across Saskatchewan.   

ARE THESE EXAMS SAFE? 

MRI images are created using a magnetic field, which can attract metal objects or may cause metal in your body to move. This means that before an MRI can be performed all patients will need to be screened to exclude internal metal objects or hardware that are not safe in the MRI. The inside of the MRI scanner can feel small to some people and there are noises caused by changes in the magnetic field, which require ear protection. 

When using MRI contrast, an injectable gadolinium dye, there is a small risk of allergic reaction. However, you will be asked about your allergies and other medical conditions when booking your exam. 

In Alberta, MRI exams are available in hospitals and covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, but we also offer the same studies as private pay exams, for when patients may be unable to wait to receive an exam through the public health system. In Saskatchewan, we offer MRIs as a publicly funded, community-based service under contract with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and as a private pay exam. Private MRI services in Saskatchewan are provided in accordance with and under the legislation of the Province of Saskatchewan. 

Whether public or private, an MRI must be requested by a health care practitioner who will provide a requisition. Mayfair Diagnostics will schedule your exam and provide you with detailed information to prepare for it. Once your exam is completed, your images will be reviewed by a specialized radiologist who will compile a report that is sent to your doctor. 

Mayfair Diagnostics is owned and operated by over 50 radiologists who are sub-specialty trained, which guarantees an expert opinion of your imaging.  

Mayfair Diagnostics offers MRI imaging as a private pay service at our Mayfair Place location in Calgary, and as both public and private pay exams at our Regina and Saskatoon locations in Saskatchewan. For more information, please visit our services page or call our toll free number 1-866-611-2665. 


REFERENCES 

Healthwise Staff (2019) "Arthrogram (Joint X-Ray)." www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Access May 17, 2021.

Johns Hopkins Medicine (2021) "Arthrography." www.hopkinsmedicine.org. Access May 17, 2021.

Johns Hopkins Medicine (2021) “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Bones, Joints, and Soft Tissues.” www.hopkinsmedicine.org. Accessed May 17, 2021. 

 Krans, B. (2017) “Knee MRI Scan.” www.healthline.com. Accessed May 17, 2021. 

Radiological Society of North America (2021) “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Knee.” www.radiologyinfo.org. Accessed May 17, 2021. 

Saskatchewan Health Authority (2021) “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).” www.saskhealthauthority.ca. Accessed May 17, 2021. 

Your Clinic Visit, Disease Prevention