How to Read an MRI of a Knee


An MRI can show the internal structures within your knee, including bones and soft tissues. This information can be used to diagnose any possible tears, fractures or degeneration within the joint. Learning to read your own knee MRI is not a substitute for a medical diagnosis from your doctor or radiologist.

Things You'll Need

  • Medical textbook
  • Review the structures of a normal knee in a medical textbook. Note the location of the meniscus, the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, as well as the medial and lateral ligaments. Note all of the muscles and bone structures in the joint as well.

  • Look at your MRI scan with the textbook image next to it. Look for excess fluid within the joint. Fluid is indicated by bright white marks on the image.

  • Review the bone structure of the knee. In a healthy adult bone, there should be a uniform grain of the bone. Younger children may have growth plates that are darker in color compared to the rest of the bone. A fracture or chip can be detected with a dark line on the jagged spots along the edge of the bone.

  • Determine the cross sections of the diagnostic image. This is important when looking at cartilage structures such as tendons, ligaments and the meniscus. A surface cross section of the meniscus may not show a lesion located deep on the posterior side of the structure. Review the sections to determine how large the lesion may be. Ligaments are normally dark, depending on the contrast, and damage is seen as a lack of uniformity of the ligament, meaning the lines are not definite. There may also be fluid present or other color variations.

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