WPO Image

Shoulder MRI: What is it and what is it for?

Performing an MRI of the shoulder allows visualizing the various components of this joint. Thanks to this study, an accurate diagnosis can be made.

The shoulder is a joint that can present problems after a sports injury. However, it is also affected by poor posture or some habits, such as carrying the backpack with one shoulder. Additionally, a shoulder can be affected after a heart attack or cervical spine problems.

Today there are various treatments for shoulder problems. However, the first step is to tell a diagnosis, but it is a fact that performing an MRI for arm and elbow or the shoulder is an excellent option since it is a very precise, complete and high-quality study.

Diagnosis of shoulder problems

The shoulder is a joint made up of 3 bones: the humerus, the scapula and the clavicle. It also includes muscles, ligaments, and cartilage that protect blood vessels and nerve connections.

Shoulder pain can appear when any of these elements fail. In addition, it may be accompanied by difficulty rotating the arm or lifting objects.

If you have this type of discomfort, it is best to see a specialist. The doctor will ask you a series of questions as well as a physical examination to find out the cause of the problem. Suspecting a bone problem, you will be asked to perform an x-ray or tomography. Instead, if the problem seems to be soft tissue, then you should have an ultrasound.

In some cases, the studies already mentioned are not enough to know the cause of the problem. Fortunately, doing an MRI on the shoulder allows you to visualize all its structures with great precision. Therefore, it is an excellent alternative to be able to determine which is the appropriate treatment.

What is a shoulder MRI?

A shoulder MRI is an imaging test that uses radio waves and a very strong magnet. Although a shoulder MRI is much more expensive than an X-ray, the quality is also much higher. This is because it shows soft tissue, bone, and what’s underneath. In this way, anomalies can be seen which would be undetectable with other methods.

On the other hand, resonance is a safe technique that does not cause pain. Unlike CT scans or x-rays, it does not emit radiation. Therefore, it can be performed on pregnant women and the elderly.

Shoulder MRI: what does its price depend on and where is it performed?

The price of a shoulder resonance is higher than that of an x-ray, tomography or ultrasound. In the USA, you can have a shoulder MRI with a cost that starts at US $200. However, the price can also be raised depending on:

  • The resonator technology (whether it is open or closed).
  • The use of gadolinium-enhanced shoulder MRI has a higher price.
  • The diagnostic center where it is performed.

Shoulder MRI: what is it for?

There are anomalies such as chondroid (benign bone tumors) that can hardly be diagnosed with an x-ray. Therefore, a shoulder MRI can be done to confirm this diagnosis. In addition, an MRI of the shoulder helps to:

  • Evaluate the state of cartilage, muscles, ligaments and tendons;
  • Determine the amount of synovial fluid;
  • Assess the state of inflammatory, neoplastic, or post-traumatic changes (after injury);
  • Detect injuries related to frequent microtraumas (this usually occurs in tennis, volleyball and martial arts players);
  • Evaluate the condition of the nerves and blood vessels in the shoulder.

All these applications make it possible to plan treatment or assess the effectiveness of an intervention. Sometimes a shoulder MRI is done before surgery.

In which cases should I have an MRI on the shoulder?

Your doctor may request an MRI of the shoulder when these types of irregularities occur:

  • Degenerations and malformations (sometimes caused by osteoporosis)
  • Arthritis, either rheumatoid, psoriatic, or septic
  • Tumors in bones and soft tissues
  • Damage to ligaments and tendons, for example, in the rotator cuff
  • Congenital bursitis of the shoulder
  • Aseptic necrosis of the humeral head
  • Chronic mobility problems in the shoulder
  • Suprascapular nerve syndrome (manifests with chronic pain and muscle weakness)
  • Joint problems related to an accident or sports activity
  • Duplay’s disease (premature and excessive wear of the soft tissues of the shoulder).


Shoulder MRI cannot be performed in the following cases:

  • The first trimester of pregnancy
  • Presence of implanted electronic devices (pacemaker, cochlear implant, etc.). This is not in all cases, but the manufacturer must ensure that the device can function properly during the study.
  • Orthopedic implants made of ferromagnetic materials

How to prepare for a shoulder MRI?

You should prepare properly before an MRI on the shoulder. First of all, you should wear comfortable, fresh clothes and without metallic objects. Otherwise, the metals could move and become hot, putting the patient at risk. Also, the presence of metals can distort the results.

Before an MRI of the shoulder and rotator cuff, you must remove metallic objects (accessories, keys, glasses, etc.), electronic devices and payment cards. In some places, you will be asked to put on a hospital gown. You do not need to go fast for a simple shoulder resonance.

Contrast MRI of shoulder

To diagnose some diseases, contrast dye needs to be given before starting the MRI. That is, a substance that improves the visibility of tissues. In this way, they can be better appreciated in the images. The substance used is generally gadolinium and it is administered intravenously.

Magnetic resonance arthrography (shoulder MRI arthrography) consists of injecting gadolinium contrast directly into the joint. It should be noted that to perform this procedure, you must present yourself fasting and have performed a blood creatinine study.

Shoulder MRI: Procedure

A shoulder MRI is a painless and safe procedure. It takes place in a special room where the resonator, a huge cylindrical device, is located. To carry out the study, you will have to lie down on a special table that will move into the interior of the device.

Once inside the resonator, the radiologist will be in constant communication with you through an intercom. However, it will remain in a separate room. It will give you some instructions like changing the position of your arm or hand.

The most common positions for a shoulder MRI are:

  • Lying down with arms loosely along the body
  • Bent elbow and hand under the head
  • With one hand on the chest and one on the opposite shoulder

The imager often makes loud and unpleasant noises while it is capturing the images. However, you can use earplugs. At the end of the study, you will be able to return to your daily activities.

If you were given contrast, you will need to stay in the clinic for at least 30 minutes. If you receive a sedative, you will not be able to drive and rest is recommended until the effect wears off.

Lastly, results can take up to 2 days to be delivered. This is because a detailed interpretation of the images is also made. With this, it can be determined if the MRI of the shoulder appears normal, or if an abnormality is appreciated. Subsequently, your doctor will have the necessary information to continue with your treatment.


WPO Image

Hey, my name is Wilhelmina! I'm an executive for a designer company. I love my job but also, I love to explore different things such as traveling and the amazing food that is available in those places. I also love all aspects of fashion and beauty and lifestyle itself I also like to express myself and that's where this blog comes in. A blog is the perfect medium for me as it enables me to share with you my heart and passion....

Click to read on

Explore More

Modelogic Wilhelmina