MRI Scan – why you should get this done if you have a knee injury

What is an MRI Scan?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI Scan) sounds like a big scary pile of words. The machine looks even scarier to some, especially if you’re a big guy like me, or if you’re claustrophobic!

This scan uses radiowaves and strong magnets to give a detailed understanding of what’s going on in your knee. This is different from an X-ray – it pictures your tissues, internal structure and captures the view of your knee in various cross sections. X-ray is a basic, first-look scan that only sees your bone structure and nothing more.

This is already a good reason to get an MRI scan – when you’re in pain, it’s always good to be thorough and ensure nothing is wrong (or if something is, best to know is early and get it treated).

My X-ray the bones were fine

When I tore my ACL on a Saturday, I was very fearful to walk simply because I didn’t know what’s broken inside my knee. I didn’t know if it’s a ligament tear, or multiple tears, or just a sprain (although the swelling tells me it’s serious). I got an X-ray done on Saturday night, which the doctor said looks fine:

My X-ray looked fine - the joints were not too far apart, apparently.
My X-ray looked fine – the joints were not too far apart, apparently.

That’s a problem right there – when the scan says all is okay, but you know it’s not. The next natural step is to of course go deeper. If you see no fish on the surface of the water, that doesn’t mean there’s no fish deeper below. You know what I mean?

My MRI scan said many things

For a knee injury, you don’t have to have your whole body in the scanner, only the legs. When my results came out, I had no idea what’s going on, except for the line that says “complete tear”.

Page 1 of 2 of my MRI scan results
Page 1 of 2 of my MRI scan results

I see sprains of all remaining ligaments, contusion, mucoid degeneration (whattt?) on top of a complete tear. That’s crazy, and scary. In actual fact, it was not as scary – I was reading this report before my doctor came to my bedside in the hospital. When he explained it to me, it was simple – I had a complete ACL tear, and during my fall, I sprained my other ligaments. These will recover, but I need surgery as soon as possible.

Why surgery, I ask?

He explained given my relatively young age, if I didn’t get surgery, I will probably take part in vigorous activity. With 1 ligament less to rely on, the rest of the ligaments and cartilage will work extra hard to provide me stability. When I get older, the rest of my ligaments will wear and tear quicker than a normal person. This also puts me at a risk of getting early arthritis.

Say no more, doctor. Cut me up.

After MRI scan, before surgery

Now that I know I’ve got all these things going, and having been assured by my doctor that all will be okay, I had to wait 2 weeks before the operation.

He’s got me on pre-op physiotherapy, elbow crutches, hinged knee brace, painkillers, ice pack and compression wrap. I was fully cared for. It was only then I felt comfortable enough to do what I needed to do:

  1. RICE treatment to reduce swelling and pain
  2. Physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles and gain stability

I gained confidence by the day, and by Day 5, I could walk much better.

Why you should do an MRI scan

Page 2 of 2 - MRI report
Page 2 of 2 – MRI report

An MRI scan will set up back a few hundred dollars. If you’re not covered by insurance, you’re going to feel that pinch. I absolutely understand, and you should explore a way to get a correct diagnosis of your situation.

If you’re okay with paying for it, but you’re worried about pain, or the discovery of a nasty injury, don’t be. I assure you the peace of mind in knowing what you’re hurting from is worth the cost of the scan. You can come to terms with the injury, treat it and get better. And you will get better.

Take care!

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