Need An MRI On Your Hand Or Finger? Here's What To Expect
If you're experiencing pain, swelling, or other issues with your hand or fingers, your doctor may recommend an MRI scan to obtain detailed diagnostic images. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive diagnostic imaging technique that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the internal structures of your hand. The hand and fingers have complex anatomy, which can be studied in detail thanks to MRI imaging of the area.
In this article, we will discuss what you can expect during a hand MRI, what it can detect, how it is performed, and the cost associated with it.
How long does a hand MRI take?
A hand MRI scan generally takes between 15-45 minutes, depending on the complexity of the case and the type of machine used for the scan. Your appointment may be longer or shorter than this, and it is important to arrive around 15 minutes early to complete any safety questions and prepare for your scan.
What can an MRI of the hand show?
Hand MRI scans can provide detailed images of various structures within your hand. The MRI machine collects multiple images, or slices, across three planes:
axial plane images from top to bottom
coronal plane images from front to back
sagittal plane images from side to side
The structures that can be observed in a hand MRI scan are:
Bones, such as the metacarpal bones in the fingers and thumb
Ligaments, such as collateral ligaments, palmar plates and volar plates
Soft tissues, including muscles
If you are looking for an MRI scan of the wrist, including the distal radioulnar joint and other wrist anatomy, this is a separate scan bookable here.
What can a hand MRI detect?
By visualizing these structures, the radiologist can accurately assess the condition of your hand and assist in determining the appropriate treatment plan.
A hand MRI scan can help diagnose conditions such as fractures, tendon injuries (such as tendonitis, tendon tears, and tendon sheath infections), ligament tears (such as collateral ligament tears), nerve compression (such as peripheral neuropathy), inflammatory arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, ganglion cysts, soft tissue lesions, and osteoarthritis.
By providing detailed images, a hand MRI plays a crucial role in the accurate diagnosis of hand-related conditions.
How is a hand MRI done?
Depending on the type of hand MRI machine being used, the process differs slightly. As MRI uses a strong magnetic field, any metal objects, clothing fastenings or devices such as hearing aids will need to be removed before entering the scan room. Any implanted devices such as pacemakers need to be declared at the time of booking your scan, so that any safety considerations can be made.
Some of our partner scanning centres have extremity scanners, which are smaller machines that only the forearm and hand being scanned will be placed inside. This can be more suitable for claustrophobic patients, nervous patients, or those with reduced mobility who may not be able to lie flat, as a seated patient positioning is available.
In a more traditional MRI scan, hand placement is slightly different due to the fact that the scanner has a motorised bed that goes inside the scanner. During a hand MRI, you will be positioned comfortably on a padded table, either on your back with your hand to the side, on your front with your hand out in front of you, which is often referred to as the prone or 'superman position'. Your hand and arm will be placed in a specialized MRI coil, which helps capture high-quality images.
Regardless of the scanning machinery, the technician will ensure that the patient positioning is correct, and then they will leave the scan room and move to a separate control room to operate the scanner, view the images as they are taken, and ensure they are of good quality.
You will need to remain as still as possible during the scanning process to avoid blurring the images. The MRI machine produces a series of loud noises during the scan, but you will be provided with earplugs or headphones to minimize the sound. The radiographer will be in constant communication with you through an intercom system, and they will check in on you during the scan to ensure you are comfortable.
How much does a hand MRI cost?
The cost of a hand MRI can vary depending on factors such as the geographical location, the imaging facility, and whether contrast material is required. On average, the cost of a hand MRI scan ranges from £295. This includes a pre-scan consult with a clinical team member, who will fill out your referral. This means you don't need to visit a GP or referring physician to get your scan with us. You'll also receive digital reports and images of your results.
Is there anyone who can't have a hand MRI scan?
MRI scans are generally safe and non-invasive. They don't use ionising radiation, and instead use a magnetic field and radio frequencies to capture images, which are then visible on a computer. But, there are some safety measures that should be kept in mind when planning for a hand MRI scan.
Do you have any metal implants, devices, or shrapnel in your body?
Do you have any allergies to contrast agents (such as gadolinium), which may be recommended for your scan?
Are your size, weight and mobility compatible with an MRI scanner? You may wish to choose an open, upright or extremity scanner in this case.
If you're in need of a hand MRI scan, understanding what to expect can help alleviate any concerns or anxiety you may have. A hand MRI provides detailed images of your hand's internal structures, helping your doctor make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. The procedure is generally safe and non-invasive, although the actual duration and cost may vary. By collaborating with your referring physician and a skilled radiologist, you can ensure the best possible outcome for your hand health.