X-ray may be best screening tool for diagnosing knee pain

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Have you ever visited the doctor for knee pain or injuries from osteoarthritis?

If you have, you’re not alone! This is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor’s office.

MRIs are widely used by doctors to diagnose knee problems. But a 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that a simple x-ray may be a better diagnostic tool as it helps reduce time and cost.

The study looked at 100 MRI scans of knees from patients ages 40 and older and found that the most common diagnoses were osteoarthritis (39%) and meniscal tears (29%). Almost 25% of MRI scans were taken before the patient first obtained an x-ray, and yet only one-half of those scans contributed to a patient’s diagnosis and treatment for osteoarthritis.

“X-rays are an appropriate screening test for knee pain in older patients, and often the results of an x-ray can tell whether an MRI would be even helpful,” Researcher Dr. Muyibat Adelani of Washington University in St. Louis says. In addition, an MRI costs about 12 times that of an x-ray (based on Medicare rates) and can take an hour to perform.

Get the full story from Harvard Health Publications.

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