Charles Lascano, MD, CAQSM, DABFM.
Sports Medicine Physician. Sanitas Medical Centers.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a test commonly ordered for musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries and conditions. This article gives important tips to choose the right place to have an MRI done for MSK reasons.
Tip 1 – Choose closed MRI over open MRI. Regarding the MRI test, the terms “open” and “closed”, have to do with the shape of the magnets used in MRI scanners. A closed MRI has a capsule-like design where the magnet surrounds the patient. An open MRI, to the contrary, has a magnet top and bottom, which allows for an opening on the sides. In musculoskeletal injuries and conditions, an open MRI is not able to take images of certain areas of the body. Also, the images that are captured may be of lesser quality of that of a closed MRI.
Tip 2 – You may need a MRI with a high magnet strength. MRI scanners are measured in magnet strength in teslas or “T”, which can range between 0.5T and 3.0T. Some things show up better on 3.0T or higher, while other things don’t require nearly as much field strength.
Tip 3 – Choose a place with musculoskeletal fellowship trained radiologists for the test reading. These are physicians who after completion of their radiology residency training, subspecialize in musculoskeletal radiology, so they have more expertise to diagnose the MSK abnormalities.
Tip 4 – Make sure that the imaging place provides you with a copy of the test images immediately after the test. Imaging places send the reports to the ordering physician but not the images, so it is important that the patient requests a DVD or CD with the images. Most of these places give these for free.
Tip 5 – Usually, independent diagnostic testing centers cost patients less insurance copay than physician offices, and physician offices less copay than hospital (even if outpatient) facilities. Make sure to review your health insurance explanation of benefits or to consult your insurance representative for this.
Tip 6 – Many Imaging places offer transportation to their centers. Ask them directly when scheduling the appointment.
Tip 7 – The best source for advice is usually your MSK specialist like your sports medicine physician or orthopedic surgeon, who likely knows what the good imaging places in town are.