Musculoskeletal imaging describes the study of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the joints that contain those structures. Magnetic resonance imaging has revolutionized the way these structures are studied, giving us images of such detail that we are able to see subtle damage, and help orthopedic surgeons and other physicians prepare for surgery and therapy.
Computed tomography and nuclear medicine scans compliment MR imaging in more complicated cases. Gadolinium injection of joints before MR imaging is routinely performed; in many cases this increases the accuracy in diagnosing joint injury. Plain radiographs remain the most common initial imaging study.
While the majority of musculoskeletal imaging involves joint/sports injury, it also involves the imaging of bone and soft tissue tumors.
Musculoskeletal radiologists also use imaging modalities to treat pain and to perform biopsies. Direct injections of anesthetic agents and steroids into joints can be performed using X-ray or CT guidance. The hips, shoulders, wrists, knees and joints within the spine are among the many locations that are routinely treated for pain.
MRI is usually the best choice for examining the body’s major joints, spine for disk disease and soft tissues of the extremities (muscles and bones).
Common Musculoskeletal Radiology studies using MRI:
- Degenerative joint disorders such as arthritis and meniscus tears (knee)
- Joint abnormalities due to trauma (tendon tears)
- Spinal disk abnormalities (herniated disk)
- Integrity of the spinal cord after trauma
- Sports-related injuries and work-related disorders caused by repeated strain, vibration or forceful impact
- Infections (osteomyelitis)
- Tumors (primary tumors and metastases) involving bones and joints
- Pain, swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around the joints and bones