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  2. Knee - Left

Knee - Left

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A guide to knee pain: knee scans, imaging, & more

When you think of knee pain, the first thing that may come to mind is sports injuries. Indeed, people who participate in competitive sports are at a higher risk for injury. But knee pain can strike at any time and any age. In fact, the highest percentage of non-sports-related knee injuries occurs in those 15 to 24 years old.

The knee is one of the most complex structures in the body. Many bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles are involved in the knees' function. An injury as simple as a fall off a bike or a bruise can cause damage to the knee.

Even previously untreated injuries that seemed to heal can resurface years later and cause discomfort. Since the knee is home to many different bodily structures, locating the source or cause of knee pain can be challenging.

This is where diagnostic imaging scans come in. These non-invasive procedures can help doctors assess knee damage and prescribe a treatment plan to get you back on your feet.

Why do I need a knee scan?

A knee scan can be helpful for various reasons. For example, it can identify areas of damage or inflammation, or help physicians determine the cause of knee pain. Knee scans can also be a preventive measure to track the recovery of previous knee injuries. Knee scans are also necessary for those who have had a knee operation, as knee scans can demonstrate how well you are healing after surgery.

What does a knee scan show?

A knee scan can show the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves that make up the knee joint. These include:

Bones:

  • Patella (kneecap)
  • Femur
  • Tibia

Ligaments:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Lateral cruciate ligament (LCL)
  • Medial cruciate ligament (MCL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)

Tissues:

  • Meniscus
  • Joint capsule
  • Synovial membrane
  • Hyaline cartilage

The knee is a type of hinge joint, meaning that it moves on a sort of axis. The knee has a small bone, the kneecap, floating on top of its main joint. The kneecap is connected to the femur and tibia by a series of tendons and ligaments.

With so many tissues and structures interconnected, it can be challenging for a doctor to identify the cause through physical examination alone. However, a scan can detect even minor abnormalities within the knee.

Common causes of knee pain

According to John Hopkins Medicine, knee pain is one of the most common complaints in adults. Knee pain is associated with wear and tear as we age. But the damage can be caused by repetitive use or degenerative diseases. The most common causes of knee pain include:

  • Ligament sprains and strains
  • Tears in cartilage
  • Tears in ligaments or tendons
  • Bone fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Inflammation
  • Presence of a cyst

A scan on the knee will be able to determine the severity of your knee pain and help doctors create a treatment plan to get you back up and running. 

Common knee pain-related diagnoses

According to John Hopkins Medicine, knee pain is one of the most common complaints in adults. Knee pain often accompanies aging. Butrepetitive use or degenerative diseases can also causeknee damage. The most common causes of knee pain include:

  • Ligament sprains and strains
  • Tears in cartilage
  • Tears in ligaments or tendons
  • Bone fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Inflammation
  • Presence of a cyst

A scan on the knee will be able to determine the severity of your knee pain and help doctors create a treatment plan to get you back up and running.

Types of scans for the knee

There are different medical imaging scans that exist that will allow radiologists to view the internal structures of your knee. Depending on the type of pain and symptoms you're experiencing, your doctor may determine that certain scans are better for understanding the probable cause of your knee pain.

CT scans for the knee

CT scans, also known as CAT scans, are short for computerized tomography scans. A CT scan of the knee uses an X-ray machine to take multiple pictures of the knee joint. A computer puts these images together to form a snapshot of the inside of the knee joint, including its bones, blood vessels, and other tissue. CT scans are great for identifying:

  • Tumors
  • Lesions
  • Complex bone fractures
  • Blood clots
  • Eroded joints

MRI for the knee

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to create a 3D image of the knee. The MRI takes pictures across 3 planes as the machine moves across the knee. A knee MRI can show different tissue structures in great detail. This includes:

  • Bones
  • Cartilage
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels
  • Fluid

Although similar to a CT scan, an MRI of the knee will show any degeneration of the fibrous tissues within the knee joint, as well as fractures and joint erosion.

Ultrasounds for the knee

Ultrasounds use sound waves to pulse through a specific part of the body. They use the echo to generate an image of the inside of the knee. A knee ultrasound is excellent at identifying problems with the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. While ultrasounds don't produce detailed pictures, they are an excellent tool when identifying soft tissue problems. It can also detect the level of osteoporosis degeneration.

How much does a knee scan cost?

On average, a knee scan will cost between $150 to $1,000. However, the cost of a knee scan varies and will depend on a few factors. For example, the type of knee scan you receive may affect your cost. Ultrasounds are at the lower end of the medical imaging pricing spectrum, while MRI scans and CT scans may come at higher rates. The price of your knee scan also hinges on the clinic you choose to receive your scan, your insurance coverage, your insurance copay, your location, and other elements.

How long does a knee scan take?

A knee scan will take between 30 to 60 minutes to complete. The amount of time depends on the type of scan you receive. Keep in mind that these time ranges are estimates and may vary based on a variety of individual factors.

  1. Ultrasounds: about 30 minutes
  2. CT scans: 30 to 45 minutes
  3. MRI scans: 45 to 60 minutes

Find a knee scan medical imaging center near me

You have many options when choosing a diagnostic imaging center for a knee scan. If you are looking for a reliable center for medical imaging, you can find a knee scan center near you by using scan.com’s scan search tool.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22506941/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/knee-pain-and-problems
  4. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/magnetic-resonance-imaging-mri
  5. https://www.radiology.ca/article/how-does-ultrasound-work
  6. https://www.envisionmi.com.au/us-knee