You’ve been sent for an MRI and there you are with the scan results in your hand. The report is telling you that your knee has a range of abnormal findings including a meniscus tear. Uh oh! This must be why your knee hurts…well maybe not. The reality is that this tear may have been there long before the knee pain existed.
Often scan findings are linked to a person’s cause of pain however this relationship between knee pain and abnormal MRI results is not always precise. Not only meniscus tears but cartilage defects, bone marrow lesions, osteophytes and other features of osteoarthritis can be commonly found on knee scans. It’s never been more important that scans must be interpreted with caution. We now have unprecedented access to imaging services with over 27,000,000 medical imaging investigations occurring annually in Australia. This costs their medicare a whopping $4 billion yearly.
So what are the facts?
A large review study published in 2018 looked at 3761 knees in people who were pain free. From a collection of 44 studies this is what they found:
Should I get a scan?
The answer to this isn’t a straight forward yes or no but there should be a good reason to send someone for a scan. Guidelines were developed to prevent unnecessary knee radiographs following knee trauma, these are called the Ottawa Knee Rule. . The indications for a x-ray are as follows:
So what does this mean for you?
Just because you have abnormal findings on a scan does not mean it’s the cause of your knee pain. Again, we can’t determine someone’s pain source purely from a scan. This is where it is important to always match a person’s clinical history with their medical imaging – and this is what good health practitioners do! Chances are that some of those scan findings were probably there long before your pain existed.
If you have any questions, please let us know!
The therapists at SRVPT have a variety of backgrounds and are interested in sharing our knowledge with you! Check out their bios for more specific information.