With the cost that many patients have to pay out of pocket these days for healthcare, it is always important to keep costs down. An MRI can be expensive, especially when the patient has a large deductible. Plus a patient might not be able to undergo an MRI for some reason. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I look at whether it’s necessary to get an MRI for an ACL tear.

Melissa
I came across your article on torn ACLs when I was trying to find out if you can tell if you have a torn acl with out an MRI. My boyfriend was in a motorcycle accident recently and is still recovering in a coma-like state, still not talking. I’m worried he may have a torn ACL in his right leg since he had a compound fracture of both lower limbs. They couldn’t do an MRI on his brain because of what they used to cut the blood supply on his spleen. I know from working in an animal field we would put them under anesthetic and look for a drawer sign. Is there any way to tell since he is unable to speak right now?

As an orthopedic surgeon, I order x-rays on many patients that come to my office for evaluation of various injuries. X-rays only show bones, so they cannot really demonstrate a torn ligament, tendon, cartilage or other soft tissue structure. I, like most orthopaedic surgeons, order a fair number of MRIs if I am concerned about such an injury that could require surgery.

There are some injuries, like ACL tears, that don’t always need an MRI. Often the history and physical exam can prove that a patient tore his or her ACL without the MRI. In other situations, we might need the MRI for an ACL tear. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I explain when orthopaedic surgeons generally get MRIs to look for an ACL injury and when we might not.

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – X-rays and MRI for knee arthritis
Ask Dr. Geier – Is an MRI necessary to diagnose an ACL injury?

The doctor's exam might eliminate the need for an MRI for an ACL tear

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