MRI of the knee: never to be routine

In the event of knee pain, related either to trauma (fall, sprain, blow…) or without an apparent cause, it is often recommended that a patient has a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) to determine the course of action, even prior to an orthopaedic clinical examination.

When performed routinely, this should be considered an overused procedure. Most illnesses producing knee pain may in fact be diagnosed through a clinical examination; that is, by understanding what problems the patient has had through a physical examination, supplemented with a normal x-ray if necessary.

Advice from Altroconsumo

- It is good to reduce excess weight if one is overweight. Any additional load worsens the state of health of the knee joints, aggravating any problems and pain. That said, it is still important to maintain a rich and well-balanced diet, without giving up any nutrients.
- Especially after 50 years of age, it is recommended to exercise with caution and, if necessary, reduce and avoid all sports involving intense stress on the knee, like jogging, tennis, volleyball and basketball. Biking, however, is considered useful as it maintains muscle tone without overloading the joints as, indeed, does swimming.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and exercise regularly, even simply by going for a brisk walk for a half an hour every day (10,000 steps per day), keep in good general health and help also keep the muscles and knee joints in good shape.
- Suitable exercises can help keep the joints mobile.

Questions to your doctor

If the doctor prescribes a test, medication or surgery, remember that “Doing more does not mean doing better” and ask:

  • Do I really need this exam/treatment?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simpler and safer alternatives?
  • What happens if I don’t take this exam/treatment?

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In collaboration with

SIRM - Italian Society of Medical Radiology

The information available in this tool is a clue to talk to your doctor or trusted professional. It is not a substitute for information and advice that you can get by contacting them directly.

To find out more and to know the sources used, consult the Altroconsumo website and the Choosing Wisely Italy website