MRI of the elbow: what shows?


Magnetic resonance imaging is considered the «gold standard» in the diagnosis of articular pathologies. Powerful electromagnetic pulses emitted by the apparatus, allow to obtain three-dimensional image, which shows all structures of the joint – bone and muscle tissue, nerve fibers, blood vessels. MRI of the elbow joint allows the physician to obtain all necessary information for the correct diagnosis, it can be done as many times as necessary if indicated.

A little anatomy

The elbow belongs to the group of complex joints of the human body. It includes radial, ulnar and humerus bones that are joined together in more simple joints, forming respectively the brachioradialis, preselective and radioulnar joints. All these structures are United by a common joint capsule, and the slightest pathology in one component leads to imbalance in the whole complex structure. Due to its complex structure, the elbow is vulnerable to various lesions of infectious, traumatic and inflammatory. With the help of MRI it is possible in a short time and painlessly for the patient, to diagnose problems in the joints.

The elbow joint in everyday life is experiencing a large number of stresses due to the constant activity of man, so quickly «wear and tear» of the tissues of the elbow and the deterioration of its functionality. Almost all diseases of the elbow joint are expressed by similar symptoms, therefore it is without carrying out magnetic resonance imaging is very difficult to identify the cause of pain.

MRI of the elbow joint is assigned to the case, if there are certain indications for the study. Often the indication is inflammation, acute or chronic pain, presence of extraneous sounds in the Commission of the flexor and extensor movements, as well as limited mobility in the joint.

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All readings can be divided into separate groups:

  • Inflammation in the joint with pain, swelling and redness.
  • Traumatic lesions of joints – contusions, fractures, dislocations.

  • Extraneous sounds when making movements at the elbow – crunching and clicking.
  • Suspicion for cancer education.
  • As preoperative preparation or quality control of surgery.

MRI of the elbow joint is assigned in those cases if a previous x-ray studies have not shown clear results or patient at the moment do not study x-ray (e.g., pregnancy).

In some cases, the study is prohibited?

Despite the complete safety of the method, there are contraindications, in which scanning is strictly prohibited. These include:

  • Artificial pacemaker.
  • A cochlear implant.
  • Metallic vascular clips and stents for aneurysms.
  • Established patient Ilizarov.
  • The first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Renal failure in the case of contrast agent.

How to prepare for the exam?

Mr imaging of the elbow joint does not require special training. It is important to consider all the relative and absolute contraindications to this type of diagnosis. At the time of the scanning procedure it is recommended to wear comfortable clothing that has no metal objects, you can optionally request a set of special disposable sets.

In that case, if the planned scan using contrast agent, it is advisable not to eat immediately before the test in order to avoid feelings of nausea or vomiting. MRI elbow without contrast does not require compliance with a special diet before the test. Private contraindication for contrast-enhanced MRI is allergic to contrast.

What happens during the procedure?

The scanning of the elbow joint can be performed on the scanners open or closed types. The scanners are of the open type are more comfortable for patients with claustrophobia, however, they are not available in all clinics, and the research is a bit more expensive.

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Before you go into the office, where will the research be conducted, the patient must remove from the pockets of all metal products, mobile phone, plastic card, women should remove all jewelry.

Laying the patient with the imaging of the elbow: when scanning, the patient is placed on the back or stomach with outstretched hand, which is fixed by special straps and coil. Mobile couch is pushed into the scanner, and starts the study. As practice shows, on average, the procedure takes 30 minutes, all the while the patient must keep perfectly still.

What the study shows?

Using MRI of the elbow joint can assess the state of not only bone, but cartilage and tendons. When using contrast agents clearly visualized the cancer education and metastases, the specialist has the ability to determine the boundaries of the tumor and its structural features. A three-dimensional image reflects the state of the circulatory network of the elbow, shows the areas of impaired blood flow, inflammation. The procedure is absolutely safe for the patient, it can be done several times if necessary, not withstanding some special time interval between the surveys. Using magnetic resonance imaging can diagnose abscesses, cysts, bursitis (inflammation of the joint capsule), nerve damage, and possible areas of their entrapment.

After the scan is complete, the doctor removed for analysis of the obtained images. The patient can wait outside or come for the result to another designated specialist day. With this conclusion, we should go to the doctor, who ordered an MRI of the elbow joint.