Learn more about the Hip body part, what can be detected when it's scanned, and why you might need it scanned.

Hip Discomfort: Can An MRI Help?

Hip pain is associated with getting older, but it can affect all age demographics. Most hip pain is associated with overuse, therefore it can affect anyone who performs frequent repetitive tasks. However, there are more potentially serious causes of hip pain that can become worse over time if left untreated.

An MRI can produce an accurate image of the hip joint and surrounding structures. This helps increase the potential of making a quick and accurate diagnosis. Identifying the source of your discomfort is the first step in your treatment plan.

If you are experiencing hip pain and are interested in more information, follow along as we discuss the in’s and out’s of a hip MRI.

What Does a Hip MRI Show?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the structures that make up your hip and surrounding tissues. These can include:

  • Top of the Femur
  • Pelvis (though a specific pelvic scan should be booked if this is the area required for imaging)
  • Coccyx
  • Cartilage
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Additional Soft Tissues

The MRI paints a three-dimensional picture of the pelvis by generating images–called slices–across three planes. The radiologist can examine the inner portions of bones and soft tissues to identify potential abnormalities.

If you are experiencing pain in your hip, it can steadily increase or it may come and go. Hip injuries or abnormalities usually result in some form of pain. It can be felt in the pelvic area, but pain can also be felt in the lower back and down the leg towards the knee. While a physical examination is important in identifying the cause of your pain, an MRI provides more insight into the potential causes of your pain.

These can include:

  • Bone Fractures
  • Bone Bruises
  • Ligament and Tendon Tears or Inflammation
  • Muscle Strain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hip Trauma
  • Bursitis
  • Necrosis or Infection
  • Dislocation
  • Tumours
  • Injury to other structures surrounding the hip

The MRI’s ability to showcase not only the hip but the surrounding structures provides the opportunity for doctors to better understand the cause of your pain. With a more accurate diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe a treatment plan to get you back on the road to recovery.

Can an MRI Detect Hip Bursitis?

The majority of hip injuries are wear and tear injuries. Bursitis is a condition that affects the bursae–fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between two bones, reducing friction. Bursitis is the inflammation of these bursae. It causes pain in the hip and groin area that can further extend down the thigh.

An MRI can detect this inflammation, allowing for an effective treatment plan to alleviate your discomfort. However, in addition to overuse injuries, bursitis has also been induced by other factors including:

  • Spine Disease
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Calcium Deposits
  • Previous Surgery

The images an MRI produces combined with the symptoms a patient is experiencing allows the radiologist to diagnose bursitis.

How Long Does a Hip MRI Take?

A typical hip MRI takes 10–30 minutes to complete. In some instances, a contrast material will need to be used to see important structures in the hip. This is administered intravenously. If this is the case, the test can take additional while you wait for the contrast material to circulate through the body.

It is important to remain as still as possible while the scan is being performed. Any sudden movements can result in distorted images and the scan will need to be repeated. This will, of course, increase the length of time your scan will take.

Does Your Whole Body go in For a Hip MRI?

There are two main types of MRI machines.

  1. Standard Bore - The traditional style and more common machine. This is a narrow tube that will slide the majority of the body into the machine.
  2. Short Bore - This machine is about half the size of a traditional standard bore machine. This allows smaller portions of the body to be inside the tube, while the rest of the body remains exposed.

Depending on the type of machine being used, the entire body will go into the machine or just a portion of your body will go into the machine.

If you suffer from claustrophobia, a short bore machine is usually more manageable for patients. You can discuss this and any other concerns when you make an appointment for a hip MRI scan.

How Do You Prepare For a Hip MRI?

An MRI is a straightforward non-invasive diagnostic procedure. Therefore it does not require much preparation. In some circumstances, you may be asked to fast before your scan. However, that is not common during a hip MRI. The most important preparation is detailing your medical history with the technician.

It is important to include:

  • Allergies to medication
  • Pacemakers or Defibrillators
  • Artificial Joints
  • Metal plates, stints or screws
  • Pregnancy

Some scans require the use of contrast material to enhance the structures surrounding the hip joint. It’s important to indicate if you have any known allergies to the contrast material.

Although an MRI is a very safe procedure, the use of a strong magnetic field can cause fluctuations in the settings of implanted medical devices. Therefore these will need to be monitored. Any metal can interfere with the quality of the scan. This includes jewellery, metal fasteners and any implanted metal material.

Studies have not shown any correlation between MRI procedures and birth defects. However, it is important to provide a comprehensive medical history to the technician and radiologist.

The Bottom Line

The hip is home to a multitude of soft tissues, bones and muscles. When we experience hip pain, it can be the result of any number of potential problems. The unknown is frustrating and can make finding a solution to your pain a challenge.

An MRI provides a clear insight into the hip and surrounding structures. This can increase the chances of making an accurate diagnosis the first time. This means a treatment plan that fits your needs and gets you on the path to recovery much sooner.

If you are looking for more information on a hip MRI procedure, contact us. Or book an appointment at one of our centres. We are here to help get you back to enjoying your everyday life–minus the pain.


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