For the last two years, there has been a big discussion with regards to the effectiveness of the MRI in athletics. The MRI is often times a major tool in diagnosing and helping treat complex conditions. While diagnostic imaging has the potential to help solve many problems, it’s also at the mercy of interpretation. If a practitioner doesn’t interpret an MRI correctly or read an X-Ray the right way, chances are that something will be lost in the shuffle.
The MRI can be misleading, according to the superstar of superstars, Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews conducted a study in 2011 of 31 professional baseball pitchers. Dr. Andrews found that in 90% of the players, all of them healthy, there was abnormal shoulder cartilage. Dr. Andrews made a point to stress that while the MRI is an invaluable tool in many other situations, it can be overused and inaccurate as well.
While this is a study that was conducted in sports medicine and applies more to people that engage in an active and athletic lifestyle, it does apply to all fields that use the MRI. An MRI is a part, a big part, of helping a patient but it should not be the sole factor in determining how to treat someone. Sports medicine has examples of athletes that have gone unnecessary procedures due to the sole use of the MRI.
An example of MRI misuse is best stated by Dr. Bruce Sangeorzan who stated that “if a healthy, uninjured person goes out for a run, a scan afterward will show fluid in the knee bone. It is inconsequential. But in an injured person, fluid can be a sign of a bone that is stressed or even has a crack and is trying to heal.” This is the type of statement that helps educate professionals that rely on imaging more than they should and patients looking to further understand diagnostic imaging.
One thing that will not change is the idea that imaging itself is a huge tool in medicine. Without diagnostic imaging, physicians would have a far more difficult time treating conditions such as cancer. As diagnostic imaging advances, so too does the possibility of discovering causes for certain conditions, both chronic and complex. Sports medicine is a bit of the exception to the rule because it deals with the wear and tear of the human body when it’s exposed to greater levels of activity than normal.
Diagnostic imaging, in general, will always have a small sector of followers that will likely overuse it. Overuse is not a favorable practice but it exists in every aspect of life. Diagnostic imaging doesn’t cease in terms of an effective nature and will ultimately improve as it has since the discovery of the “wondrous” X-Ray. The way it’s used can only really be determined by the people that use it. As time passes things will only, hopefully, improve and the athlete and the MRI will be less like Oscar and Felix (The Odd Couple).
If you have any questions about MRIs or diagnostic imaging in general, please feel free to call us anytime. We are always looking forward to taking your call and answering any questions that you may have.
MRI, CT & PET/CT Specialist