Find out which procedure, the MR arthrography or a standard MRI, is better at detecting a rotator cuff tear.

Diagnosing a rotator cuff tear or other type of tissue tear isn’t always as simple as a patient may think, even if the resulting shoulder pain is classical of this condition.

A study that was done at the Neuroskeletal Imaging in Merritt Island, Florida showed that magnetic resonance (MR) arthrography of the shoulder better identifies a rotator cuff tear, when compared to a regular MRI.

However, not all doctors will inform the patient that the MR arthrography is an option.

When a doctor wanted to figure out what was going on with my mother’s painful shoulder, the only imaging study that was mentioned was the regular MRI.

So if you have a painful shoulder or suspect a torn rotator cuff or some other tear (e.g., labral), be sure to inquire about the MR arthrography, which requires that a contrast dye be injected into the joint.

Says Thomas Magee, MD, the study’s lead author, in the report: “With MR arthrography we were able to see things with a high degree of accuracy in the shoulder.”

Dr. Magee explains that with a non-contrast procedure (3T MRI), the “resolution and picture quality” is high, “except for lesions that are hidden without distension (swelling) of the joint,” he says.

“During MR arthrography, distention of the joint allowed us to uncover lesions that could not be seen on conventional MRI.”

The MR arthrogram provides a “better road map for surgeons,” says Dr. Magee.

If you’ve had only an MRI, and your doctor recommends surgery, WAIT — first insist upon the MR arthrogram for a more accurate assessment.

It may determine you don’t even need surgery.

The report appears in the 2009 American Journal of Roentgenology.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov
Source: Rotator Cuff Tear Diagnosis: MR Arthrography vs. Regular MRI