What Should I Expect from a Wrist MRI?

Nat Robinson

A wrist magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is noninvasive diagnostic test used to access the wrist for an injury or condition. The test is used to diagnose a problem and to provide a medical professional with information on how to treat such problems. This type of imaging test does not use X-rays, and instead captures detailed images of inner body structures on a computer using radio waves and a magnetic field. Commonly, a medical professional will order an MRI over other traditional diagnostic tests because it can clearly show extensive inner structures of the wrist, such as nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, in addition to bones and organs.

A person with wrist pain.
A person with wrist pain.

Often, a wrist MRI may be prescribed to assess a wrist injury. The MRI will be able to detail any injuries to bones, ligaments, or surrounding tissues in the area. Sometimes, an individual may undergo the test for unexplained wrist pain. In this event, the test will be used to pinpoint the cause of pain, so that proper treatment may be administered. Commonly, someone with a pre-existing condition, such as arthritis, may undergo this type of imaging to examine the progress of the condition.

An MRI machine.
An MRI machine.

The test may also be done after wrist surgery to determine the success of the operation. In many cases, physical therapy may be given to assist in recuperation, and it is not uncommon for an individual to undergo an additional MRI several weeks following a surgical procedure or rehabilitation program. This may be done to get a view of the wrist after any side effects of the surgery, such as inflammation, have worn off.

An MRI machine.
An MRI machine.

An MRI machine is a circular shaped tube with a movable table that slides into the machine. For the wrist MRI, the patient will typically lie on the table which will enter into the tube for the test. Although this is usually a painless procedure, people with claustrophobia may find being confined inside the tube as the least enjoyable part. To ensure that the most accurate images are captured, patients are generally asked to lie very still for the duration of the test.

There is generally not a great deal of preparation needed for an MRI of the wrist. Patients will need to remove any metal-containing material before the test, as they will be entering a machine with a magnetic field. Pregnant women should also inform the medical professional of their condition before undergoing this test. Individuals with any type of health problems or who are on prescription medications should make this information known as well. This is typically because a contrast dye may be injected to highlight the area to be studied, and the dye may interact with certain conditions and medications.

After the test, the patient is usually free to go home. The medical professional will typically call with the results as soon they become available. Depending on the results of the wrist MRI, the healthcare provider will be able to make an accurate diagnosis of the problem and plan a course of treatment.

An MRI machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of internal organs and bone structures.
An MRI machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of internal organs and bone structures.

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Discussion Comments


I had a right wrist MRI arthrogram done last week. I had to lie on my stomach and placed my wrist on some type of platform and the wrist was the only part that went in the machine. I had to stay still for 45 minutes, though!


@feruze-- That's what I thought too but @anon306020 mentioned an extremity scanner. So maybe you don't have to after all.

I thought that no matter which part of your body the MRI is for, you lie in the MRI machine and then the technician will concentrate on the area that needs to be filmed.

That is frustrating though because an MRI is not fun. It really is claustrophobic. The first time I got an MRI, they didn't even tell me how long it would take or the loud noises that would be coming from the machine. So I literally had an anxiety attack while I was inside. I don't like MRIs for this reason but I know that sometimes they're necessary.


So my whole body has to go into the MRI machine even though I only need an MRI of my wrist?


It's most comfortable to have a wrist MRI in a specialized 1.5 T Extremity Scanner.

With an Extremity MRI scanner, you sit in a reclining chair next to a smaller MRI machine. Your arm extends out from your side so your injured wrist goes right into the scanner.

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