What is a Shoulder MRI?
A shoulder MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a painless radiology exam. This is performed to examine the shoulder and its surrounding areas in a non-invasive manner. In this scan, multiple images of the bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues of the shoulder are generated using radio waves and a strong magnetic field.
The shoulder MRI helps doctors in examining pain, swelling, and deformity in the shoulder joint; assessing shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears and tendonitis; and visualizing tumors, infection, inflammation, and other abnormalities in the shoulder.
The MRI of the shoulder may be done with or without the use of a contrast material (dye) that is either taken by mouth (orally) or injected into the veins. When the contrast material is used, the organs are seen more clearly in the scanned images.
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Who Should Get a Shoulder MRI?
Your doctor may recommend a shoulder MRI if you have one or more of the following symptoms or ailments:
- Pain in the arm or shoulder
- Muscle or ligament tear
- Disturbance in the normal resting position of the joint (internal derangement)
What is the Purpose of Taking a Shoulder MRI?
The MRI of the shoulder will help your doctor to:
- Evaluate unexplained pain, swelling, or bleeding in and around the shoulder joint
- Evaluate joint disorders such as labral tears and arthritis
- Diagnose work or sports-related injuries caused by forceful impact or repeated strain
- Diagnose rotator cuff disorders, such as tears and impingement, which are the main cause of shoulder pain in patients above the age of 40
- Diagnose joint abnormalities due to trauma, such as tears of ligaments and tendons
- Detect Tumors involving bones and joints
- Detect infections (such as osteomyelitis)
- Detect bone fractures
- Check progress after shoulder surgery
Your doctor may also ask you to take the Uric Acid (serum) test, if you have sharp pain attacks in your shoulder joint. This test will help your doctor check uric acid levels in your blood. Depending on the results, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.
How Is a Shoulder MRI Performed?
- Before starting the MRI of the shoulder, you will have to remove all the metal objects on your body, including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures.
- A technologist will ask you to lie still on the MRI scanner table, which will move slowly through a doughnut-shaped MRI machine.
- Once you are inside the MRI machine, multiple images of your shoulder will be taken that will be displayed on a monitor.
- During the scan, the technologist will ask you to hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds at certain points. Make sure you don’t move during the scan as any movement can blur the images.
In case, your doctor has asked you to take a shoulder MRI with contrast, then a contrast dye will be injected into your vein shortly before the scan begins.
How Long Does a Shoulder MRI Take?
An MRI of the Shoulder is usually completed between 45 to 60 minutes.
Is Radiation Involved in a Shoulder MRI?
No. An MRI is a painless imaging test that doesn’t use radiation.
Are There Any Risks in Taking a Shoulder MRI?
- People who have implants such as cardiac pacemaker, coronary stent, orthopedic rods and plates, which contain metal, may face certain risks. The magnets used in an MRI can make implanted pins or screws move in the body or cause problems with pacemakers.
- Some people might also have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in an MRI.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Once the Shoulder MRI is completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How Should I Prepare for a Shoulder MRI?
Please refer to the simple preparation guidelines given below or consult with your doctor or radiology center where you are being treated. Do not forget to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.