Updated: 2019, Aug 12

Find Out What Does an Arthritis Looks Like On an MRI

what does arthritis look like on MRI

Introduction

Have you been experiencing pain, stiffness and decreased the range of motion in your joints?

Have you felt unable to get out of bed because of this pain? Can you describe this pain as almost unbearable?

Has the doctor informed you that you are suffering from what is known as Arthritis? Well, you are not alone, taking in consideration the estimated 54.4 million adults only in the U.S.A alone being diagnosed with some form of Arthritis.

And as your doctor has probably already informed you up to now, Arthritis is not something that you can simply cure.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this condition. However, getting informed about the new treatment options that you can try is always the best idea. Getting informed about this condition, in general, is where you need to try.

This is why we are dedicating a full article on the topic of Arthritis and especially what does Arthritis looks like on an MRI. Arthritis on MRI is not like anything that most people have seen.

Considering it is quite an interesting subject, we do hope that we will succeed in fulfilling our goal in informing you and getting you prepared for what may accompany you for the rest of your life.

What do you need to know about Arthritis

Arthritis is not a term for only one condition. Unfortunately, Arthritis is a term for a group of nearly 100 similar conditions. The most common ones are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Unfortunate but true, there is no cure for any of these conditions under the name of Arthritis. But not to be scared, there are treatment options that are designed to make the symptoms more bearable to live with.

Causes are just another black dot in this story. Researchers are still trying to find out if there is one or even a couple of explainable causes for this condition, or better say conditions.

However, apart from genetics, environmental factors, injury, etc., this is still a topic to be researched on. Talking about the symptoms, we have already mentioned the main symptoms that these patients experience in their lifetime.

These include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion in the affected joints. But there are other symptoms as well including anemia, fatigue, fever, decreased appetite etc.

In terms of treatment, the best option so far it seems to be physical therapy and corticosteroids. But what it most draws our attention right now is the way that Arthritis is diagnosed.

There are quite some ways for Arthritis to be detected. The doctor starts with a physical exam and later continues to make the needed blood tests, CT scans and what interests us the most – and MRI.

What is an MRI?

What is an MRI

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and it is a procedure that is commonly used to detect any anomalies regarding the human body, especially the musculoskeletal system.

MRI has caused a revolution in medicine since it has provided doctors and researchers from all around the world with valuable information for the human body.

Since the musculoskeletal system is made of both soft tissues and bones, the MRI is the perfect diagnostic procedure that will provide a clear image of what is going on. And what makes it even more perfect is the fact that we are talking about a non-invasive procedure here.

Can you see arthritis in an MRI?

The answer is yes! When a doctor is in the doubt if Arthritis is what he is dealing with, then an Arthritis MRI is always done.

MRI is also used to keep a track of the patient’s condition and the progress of the disease and treatment itself. Reading an MRI might seem like a hard thing for a person whose job is out of the medical field, however, all that needs to be done for these patients is a normal MRI and an Arthritis MRI to be shown.

It will not take a long time for anyone to see the differences between these two pictures. Let’s see two of these pictures and you can see for yourself what the differences are unavoidable.

Can you see arthritis in an MRI

On the first MRI scan, you can see a normal, healthy wrist. On the second MRI scan what is quite noticeable is a dorsal tilt that has happened due to Osteoarthritis, what we have mentioned is the most common type of Arthritis, along with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

What happens are quite noticeable changes, each characteristic for different types of Arthritis. Maybe the pain or the decreased range of motion cannot be seen on an MRI scan, however, it will surely allow you to see the reasons that had led to these unbearable symptoms. Let’s begin with Osteoarthritis.

A recently published study has confirmed that the MRI scan is actually more superior when compared with the other diagnostic procedures when used to diagnose Osteoarthritis.

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How is an MRI used to diagnose arthritis?

When you look at an MRI scan of a joint affected by Osteoarthritis, you can see quite noticeable changes.

What can be seen are reactive bone edema, swelling of the soft tissue around and small parts of the bone or/and cartilage in the joint. Cartilage degeneration can also be noticed.

However, the most characteristic sign for Osteoarthritis is the osteophytes. Osteophytes can be described as bone lumps that usually grow around the joint.

They are most commonly found around the joints of the neck, shoulders, knees, fingers/toes and lower back. Now let’s talk about Rheumatoid Arthritis. What is most interesting about a Rheumatoid Arthritis MRI is the showing of rheumatoid pannus.

For those of you who are hearing this term for the first time, let us explain. Pannus, in general, is a term used to describe newly formed, abnormal tissue which contains its own blood vessels and can be easily seen on an MRI.

It is formed in the place between the joint’s bones and it is usually responsible, alongside with pain, for the decreased range of motion that these patients experience. Bone edema can also be noticed as in the case of Osteoarthritis as well as tissue inflammation.

All of these changes help the doctor to set up a diagnose more quickly and act in time choosing the right treatment option for his/her patient.

How is an MRI used to diagnose arthritis?

The MRI investigation is commonly used for the diagnosis of arthritis, especially if the results of other investigations (X-rays) have been inconclusive. The radiology physician will analyze the state of the joints and try to determine whether there is any cartilage damage or not (or how extensive it is).

The diagnosis can also include the presence of bone spurs at the level of the affected joints, as well as increased bone density and/or thickening.

Upon making the diagnosis of arthritis, the physician will take into account the presence of joint effusion and the associated inflammation.

The MRI investigation can provide information on the excess swelling around the affected joints and pinpoint towards the actual causes. It can also be used to identify the inflammation of the joint synovial membrane and ligament tears, which can aggravate certain types of arthritis.

It is possible to use the MRI investigation to confirm the narrowing of the joint spaces, which is indicative of arthritis as well.

Read Also: Diagnosing Arthritis With X-Ray

Conclusion

Maybe we still cannot find a way to decrease the number of patients diagnosed with Arthritis each year, not we can find one specific cure that can remove all symptoms at once. But the medical world has shown great progress in the area of diagnostics.

Since MRI has been discovered, it has never been easier to diagnose a condition as Arthritis is. And the value of an early diagnosis is far greater than you can imagine. This is exactly why it is so important for an MRI to be done when we are doubting Arthritis is what we are dealing with or not.

An Arthritis on MRI shows all the characteristic changes that happen due to any type of Arthritis. We have already mentioned bone edema, tissue swelling, rheumatoid pannus and osteophytes being formed.

We do hope that what we have done is convinced you in the power of the MRI scanning and its importance for the health of the musculoskeletal system. Do not be afraid of this painless, safe procedure that can open the doors towards a better life without unbearable symptoms.

Dig out Joint-Ritis Review: This topical pain reliever is a natural remedy for joint pain and arthritis.

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Evan Jensen, CPT

Evan Jensen is a renowned American Nutritionist, Diet Expert and health writer. He has a master’s degree in journalism, with more

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