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What is a shoulder MRI scan?

A shoulder MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a procedure that creates pictures of the internal structures of the shoulder joint by using a powerful magnet, radio waves and a computer. Muscles, tendons, bones and blood vessels may all be clearly visible on an MRI. A radiologist can then examine the pictures and use them in evaluating and diagnosing problems in the shoulder joint. Your doctor may order an MRI of your shoulder if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • a mass that can be felt during a physical exam
  • an abnormal finding on an x-ray or bone scan
  • shoulder pain and fever
  • decreased motion of the shoulder joint
  • fluid buildup in the shoulder joint
  • redness or swelling of the shoulder joint
  • shoulder dislocation
  • shoulder weakness
  • shoulder pain and a history of cancer
  • shoulder pain that does not get better with treatment
Shoulder MRIs are usually painless and noninvasive and can be essential tools in the proper diagnosis of common conditions including arthritis and infections, as well as injuries such as rotator cuff tears and injuries to the biceps tendon.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.