The Use of MRI in Evaluating Knee Pain in Patients Aged 40 Years and Older

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Introduction: The use of MRI is increasing when evaluating patients with knee pain because it is highly sensitive for detecting intra-articular pathology. However, such changes can be associated with degenerative joint disease, which may be demonstrated with weight-bearing radiographs. The purpose of this study was to determine how often MRI was obtained before orthopaedic referral in patients aged ≥40 years with knee pain, how often weight-bearing radiographs were obtained before MRI, and whether such imaging influenced treatment recommendations. Methods: In a study of 599 new patients, participating physicians documented the presence of a prereferral MRI and/or plain radiographic studies, the results of weight-bearing radiographs, treatment recommendations, and the impact of any prereferral imaging. Results: Prereferral use of MRI occurred in 130 patients (22%). Of these patients, plain radiographic studies were obtained for 58% before MRI and 13% had weight-bearing radiographs. Ultimately, 17% had weight-bearing radiographs that demonstrated >50% loss of joint space. Forty-eight percent of prereferral MRIs did not contribute to treatment recommendations. In patients with >50% loss of joint space, MRI was considered unnecessary in 95% of the cases. Discussion: Many prereferral MRIs do not contribute to clinical decision making. Weight-bearing radiographs can help identify those patients in whom MRI is unlikely to be helpful. Level of Evidence: Level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-659
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • arthritis
  • knee pain
  • magnetic resonance imaging

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Use of MRI in Evaluating Knee Pain in Patients Aged 40 Years and Older'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this