MRI of the shoulder is an excellent choice for examining your shoulder joint, therefore it gives your doctor clear view of rotator cuff tears, injuries of the biceps tendon and damage to the glenoid labrum. MRI machine uses strong magnets and radio waves to create images of the parts of your body without making a surgical incision.

The glenohumeral joint has a greater range of motion than any other joint in the body. However, the small size of the glenoid cavity and the relative laxity of the joint capsule renders the joint relatively unstable and prone to subluxation and dislocation. MRI is the best imaging modality to examine patients with shoulder pain and instability.

What is the MRI scan of the Shoulder focused on?

Do you feel the pain of your elbow? Is your joint inflamed? Can you feel some lump or mass? Is the physical activity difficult for you? Did you notice any limitations of the movement of your joint? Your doctor may ask for MR scan of the shoulder to diagnose or evaluate:

  • dislocation of shoulder joint
  • degenerative joint disorders
  • tumors
  • infections
  • complicated fractures (in selected patients)
  • rotator cuff disorders
  • joint posttraumatic abnormalities
  • tears of ligaments and tendons
  • sports-related injuries and work-related disorders
  • pain, swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around the joint
  • unexplained shoulder pain that does not get better with treatment
  • limited motion of the shoulder joint
  • condition after surgery


A special form of MRI called MR arthrography involves the injection of a contrast material so that the radiologist can get a better look at structures within the shoulder. Radiologist may put the contrast material in a vein in your arm or directly into your shoulder joint. More about contrast agents you can read here.


How is the MRI of the shoulder performed?

During the examination, you lie on your back on the table and slide into the MRI machine. A typical shoulder MRI scan takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Be prepared for prior questions about pregnancy and breastfeedingtattoos and metal joints or devices such as a pacemaker. Read more about how to prepare for an MRI examination here.

After the MRI examination, you are free to leave the hospital unless your doctor tells you otherwise. If you were given a sedative (e.g. to reduce your claustrophobic feeling inside the MRI tube), you need to wait until the medication has fully worn off before driving.

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