X-rays and MRI for knee arthritis

X-rays and MRIs are common tests in orthopaedic surgery. Why do we obtain x-rays, and when do we need an MRI to make a diagnosis? In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I explain the role of each for one of the more common problems orthopaedic surgeons see – knee osteoarthritis.

Matt asks:
Do you often see an MRI and x-ray contradict each other? For instance, a patient that presents with lateral knee pain has an MRI that shows severe cartilage degeneration of the lateral compartment, but the X-rays still show a gap. How does a physician go about figuring which one is correct?

X-rays just show bone, but they don’t show soft tissue structures like the meniscus, articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. If performed inKnee arthritis x-rays certain ways, x-rays can demonstrate arthritis changes. In this video, I explain why x-rays and MRIs can show what appear to be conflicting results.

Do you have knee arthritis? Did your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon order x-rays or an MRI? Share your experience below!

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – Should I get an x-ray or MRI?
Ask Dr. Geier – Is an MRI necessary to diagnose an ACL injury?

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not discuss specific medical information by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

One Response to X-rays and MRI for knee arthritis

  1. Hi,

    I wasn’t sure how to ask question on the website but I will take a chance here.

    I had an MRI for my knee and they missed the meniscus tear. Why would a doctor miss the meniscus tear ? Is it because of swelling or something like this because I also had a mcl sprain and a patellar subluxation.

    I’m afraid to get arthritis in my knee. Is there a way to prevent this condition ?


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david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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