A magnetic resonance imaging test or MRI of the shoulder is conducted using a machine which creates images of the shoulder using a magnetic field and radio wave energy pulses. An MRI effectively displays pictures of muscles, cartilage, ligaments and other components of the joints. An MRI is used to provide information about those structures within the body that cannot be seen properly through X-rays, CT scans or ultrasound tests.
An MRI of the shoulder is done in cases where unexplained pain or discomfort is experienced in the shoulder. Shoulder problems such as arthritis, cartilage tears, bone tumors, ligament or tendon tears and infection can also be detected through an MRI. Rotator cuff disorders such as impingement and tears may also be determined using an MRI. Bone fractures that cannot be properly diagnosed through X-rays or other tests, may be detected through MRIs. Problems of the bone and joints are usually detected through magnetic resonance imaging tests. In some cases, along with an MRI, a shoulder arthrogram may also be done to obtain a clearer picture of the affected joint.
The doctor or MRI technologist must be informed regarding allergies to any medication. In some MRI tests, a contrast material may be used to allow for better visibility of the body structures. This may be inserted into the shoulder joint or in a vein of the arm. If there is a known allergy to the contrast material, the doctor must be informed. Pregnancy, presence of a pacemaker, metal screws from previous shoulder surgeries, artificial limbs or any other implanted devices must be reported to the doctor.
An MRI technologist usually performs the MRI, while a radiologist interprets the images. In some cases of shoulder conditions, orthopedic surgeons may also interpret the pictures. All metal objects such as jewelry or hairpins must be removed from the body as these can interfere with the magnetic field. The individual must then lie on a table, which slides into the area of the magnetic field. A coil may be placed on the area that needs to be scanned. The individual must remain still during the scan and may even be asked to hold his breath for a few minutes. Contrast material may be injected into the arm or directly into the joint of the shoulder. The entire test may last for a duration of half an hour to one hour.
Abnormal test results may be indicative of inflammation, tumors or infection of the joint. Infection may arise due to accumulation of fluid in the joint area. Damage to the cartilage, tendons and ligaments may also be present.