X-ray more effective than MRI when diagnosing knee pain: 4 study insights

Written by Jessica Kim Cohen | September 12, 2016 | Print  |

When diagnosing knee pain in patients older than 40 years old, x-rays are more effective than MRIs, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The study analyzed 599 cases, focusing on how a patient's pre-referral MRIs or x-rays affected the physician's treatment recommendations. The most common diagnoses of these patients were osteoarthritis and meniscal tears.


Here's what you need to know:


1. Pre-referral MRI occurred in 22 percent of patients. Of this group, 58 percent of patients also received plain radiographic studies and 13 percent also received weight-bearing radiographic studies.


2. Overall, 48 percent of pre-referral MRIs did not contribute to treatment recommendations.


3. Seventeen percent of patients demonstrated more than 50 percent loss of joint space, and MRI was considered unnecessary in 95 percent of these cases.


4. The researchers conclude that, since many pre-referral MRIs do not contribute to treatment recommendations, prioritizing x-ray diagnosis can reduce time and cost.


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