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Imagine you’re experiencing unexplained pain in your shoulder beyond what you would expect from a common injury or strain. And your doctor suspects there may be something more serious going on and orders an MRI scan. But why exactly why would you need one?

MRI scans are painless and quick, but they can be expensive. The scan itself only takes around 15-30 minutes, but the whole process from start to finish can take a few hours.

So, why would your doctor order an MRI scan? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you may need one.

  1. You’ve experienced a sudden or severe injury

An MRI scan can assess the damage if you’ve suffered a traumatic injury. Now, this is often also the case with sports injuries.

For instance, if you’ve torn your ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), an MRI scan can show the full extent of the damage.

According to statistics, around 200,000 ACL tears occur annually in the US. Therefore, the scan may assess the damage if you’ve suffered a sudden or severe injury.

However, the protocols and standards for when an MRI is indicated after an acute sports-related injury are still being developed.

When an MRI is prescribed for other types of acute injuries suffered in a car accident, the practice is still being established. However, several other imaging techniques may suffice during the process before an MRI, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), or ultrasound. The room may have MRI Stretchers or Tables, which help keep the patient still during the scan. These stretchers can be raised, lowered, or tilted to help obtain the images needed. However, some people cannot have an MRI scan due to weight, claustrophobia, or metal implants.

  1. You have a degenerative condition

A degenerative condition is when the body’s cells or tissues break down over time. This breakdown can cause pain, stiffness, and loss of function.

The condition is often seen in older adults but can affect people of any age. Some common degenerative diseases that may require an MRI scan include:

– Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones breaks down. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.

– Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.

– Spinal stenosis: This is a condition that occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain.

– Ankylosing spondylitis: This is a form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine. It can cause pain and stiffness in the back and neck.

  1. You have a neurological condition

An MRI scan can help diagnose and monitor many different neurological conditions, such as:

– Alzheimer’s disease: This is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.

– Parkinson’s disease: This is a neurological disorder that affects movement. Symptoms include tremors, rigidity, and slowness of movement.

– Multiple sclerosis: This disease attacks the nerves and causes problems with muscle movement, vision, balance, and feeling.

– Epilepsy: This is a disorder that causes recurrent seizures.

  1. You have cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, around 18.1 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2018.

An MRI scan can help detect cancer, as well as to determine the stage of the disease. It can also monitor how well treatment is working.

Some common types of cancer that may detect an MRI scan include:

– Breast and prostate cancer is the most common type diagnosed in women and men.

– Brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

– Colon and rectal cancer are the third and fourth most common types diagnosed in men and women.

  1. You have a heart condition

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the rest of the body. However, it can be affected by many different conditions. For instance, the heart may not be able to pump blood effectively if it is damaged by a heart attack or has an irregular rhythm (arrhythmia).

An MRI scan can assess the damage in such a case. An MRI scan can also help evaluate the heart before surgery, such as a heart transplant. However, people with pacemakers or other metal implants cannot have an MRI scan.

  1. You have a kidney condition

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter waste from your blood and remove it from your body in urine. Kidney conditions can be severe and even life-threatening.

For instance, kidney stones are hard deposits that can form in the kidney and cause severe pain. An MRI scan can detect the presence of kidney stones.

Kidney failure is another serious condition when the kidneys cannot properly filter waste from the blood. However, an MRI scan is not typically used to diagnose this condition. Instead, a kidney biopsy is usually performed.

  1. You have a liver condition

The liver is a large organ that filters toxins from the blood and plays a role in digesting food. Liver conditions can range from mild to severe.

For instance, fatty liver disease is the accumulation of fat in the liver. This can be caused by obesity or excessive alcohol consumption. And most people with fatty liver disease don’t experience any symptoms.

However, other liver conditions, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, can be more serious. An MRI scan can detect these conditions.

  1. You have a lung condition

Your lungs are two organs that allow you to breathe. They take in oxygen from the air and remove carbon dioxide from your blood.

However, the lungs can be affected by many different conditions, such as:

– Asthma is a chronic condition that causes the airways to swell and narrow, making breathing difficult.

– Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that make breathing difficult. COPD includes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

– Lung cancer: This is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

An MRI scan can help detect these and other lung conditions.

  1. You have a spinal cord injury

The spinal cord is a long, thin bundle of nerves that extends from the brain to the lower back. It carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

A spinal cord injury can occur due to a traumatic event like a car accident. This type of injury can cause paralysis, loss of sensation, and other serious problems.

For instance, a person with a spinal cord injury may be unable to move their arms or legs. An MRI scan can assess the damage in such a case.

  1. You have a stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. This can happen if a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel bursts.

A stroke can cause paralysis, loss of sensation, and other serious problems. For instance, a person who has had a stroke may not be able to speak or understand language.

An MRI scan can assess the damage caused by a stroke or detect a stroke that has already occurred.


Over the years, MRI scans have become an essential diagnostic tool for many different conditions. And the role of diagnostics will continue to grow as technology advances.

In some cases, an MRI scan can detect a severe condition, such as cancer. In other cases, it can rule out a serious condition and provide peace of mind. If you are scheduled for an MRI scan, be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have.