Rotator Cuff Tear MRI
A rotator cuff tear mri scan is one of the best methods available to accurately diagnose rotator cuff tears.
An mri of torn rotator cuff tendons will enable a surgeon to see and measure a tear. A rotator cuff mri is known to have over 90% accuracy, even for the smallest tears.
A rotator cuff tear mri is not a cure or a treatment and it is not suitable for everyone. A large proportion of rotator cuff problems can be diagnosed without the use of a rotator cuff mri scan.
It would be unusual for a person with just a mildly irritated rotator cuff to be referred for a scan. A rotator cuff mri is an expensive test. They are reserved, generally, to either confirm the accuracy of a physical diagnosis or the need for surgery.
In its simplest terms a rotator cuff tear mri provides an internal image of the body. It can differentiate between bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments etc. In building up a series of such images, across any particular joint, deformities can be clearly seen. It is the accuracy of this internal image that is the key to diagnosis.
< - - - Full body mri image
Think about it this way. A doctor can perform a series of tests on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
He can physically manipulate the arm / shoulder in many ways.
Undoubtedly this can give a reasonable chance of diagnosing what the problem actually is.
But the doctor can’t see the problem, the diagnosis can not be guaranteed.
A rotator cuff tear mri removes the guesswork.
A rotator cuff mri will show a rotator cuff tendon tear or indeed tendon degeneration (tendinoptahy).
Alternatives to mri
There are three other major methods for used to obtain internal images of the body
X-ray or radiograph uses a small amount of ionizing radiation to produce internal images of the body. X-rays are limited in that they can only define bone. X-ray’s are the most commonly used form of medical imaging.
Arthrography is the x-ray examination of a joint that uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material containing iodine. Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. When iodine is injected into the joint space, it coats the inner lining of the joint structures and appears bright white on an arthrogram. This allows the radiologist to assess the anatomy and function of the joint.
Ultrasound is also known as ultrasound scanning or sonography. It is a method of obtaining images from inside the human body through the use of high frequency sound waves. The sound waves echoes are recorded and displayed as a real-time, visual image on a monitor. No ionizing radiation is involved in ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound is an accurate method for diagnosing rotator cuff tears.
CT or CAT scan - computed tomography (CT) or sometimes referred to as CAT scan (computerized axial tomography). CT scans use highly enhanced x-ray technology. Images are produced in 3-D by a computer analysing x-ray images taken in many different directions through the body.
CT scans reveal both bone and soft tissues, including organs, muscles, and tumours. CT scans aid diagnosis and surgery as well as other treatments. A great example is treatment for cancer using radiation therapy. Effective dosage is highly dependent on identifying a number of factors such as precise density, size, and location of a tumour.
Benefits and limitations of rotator cuff tear mri
A rotator cuff mri can accurately detect the majority of full thickness rotator cuff tears. Very small pin point tears can be missed during the mri of torn rotator cuff tendons.
Partial tears of the rotator cuff present a different challenge. Partial thickness tears of the rotator cuff are not as reliably diagnosed as full thickness tears. This is because the mri scan may not be able to completely distinguish between a degenerative tendon and a partially torn tendon. Since tendon degeneration can also be detected by use of a rotator cuff mri. It may be that a patient history added to the image will provide a clear clinical diagnosis.
There is one further option available. A rotator cuff mri combined with an injection of contrast material will give a more accurate picture. A mr - arthrogram is similar to the x-ray arthrography procedure that is described above.
Magnetic resonance arthrography can improve the differentiation of rotator cuff degeneration from partial or complete rotator cuff tears. Not only that, but if a pin point tear is suspected, then a mr – arthrogram is the most accurate method to confirm the diagnosis.
The contrast material, gadolinium, used in mr – arthrography is less likely to produce allergic reactions than the iodine based alternatives used in x-ray and CT scans. Despite this added safety the routine use of mr – arthrography is still not advised. The test should only be performed where the diagnosis remains unclear.
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