MRI of the elbow is used for high-resolution evaluation of joints and soft-tissue structures (such as ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles). The elbow is a complex joint and most commonly is injured in athletes. In these cases, its evaluation by MRI is an important part of the complete examination.


How is the MRI of the elbow performed?

During the examination, you will be imaged laying on your back (supine position) or laying on your belly (prone position) with the arm overhead. In the supine position you are imaged with the arm placed at the side, which is usually relatively comfortable. However, the elbow is not within the center of the magnetic bore, which can result in nonuniform fat suppression. In obese patients may this cause insufficient room within the magnetic bore to place the limb at the side. Alternatively, you can also be imaged in a prone position with the arm extended over the head (the so-called ‘‘superman’’ position). Imaging begins about 10 cm above the elbow joint.


What can be the cause of my problem?

Do you feel pain of your elbow? Is your joint inflammed? Can you feel some lump or mass? Is the physical activity difficult for you? Did you noticed any limitations of the movement of your joint?

When searching for the cause of your problem, the doctor may be considering one of these:

  • arthritis and other degenerative joint disorders
  • bone fractures
  • damaged cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or meniscus
  • decreased motion of the joint
  • fluid collection
  • inflammation
  • infection
  • sports- or trauma-related injury
  • tumor


In case of suspected elbow mass lesion or infection, intravenous gadolinium-based contrast agent may be given to you. This special form of MRI is called an MR arthrogram. A mixture of contrast agent and saline would be injected into the elbow joint within MRI examination. More about contrast agents you can read here.

In some centres, you may be examined in the MRI machine, especially designed for extremities. Do you want to know what does the Extremity MRI look like and why it may be more suitable for you? Read more.

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