MRI to Diagnose Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia is not easily diagnosed. Learn how a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test can confirm whether or not you have polymyalgia and if there is inflammation in your joints and tissues.

Polymyalgia is not easily diagnosed. This is because some of the symptoms of polymyalgia are similar to other autoimmune diseases. Blood tests, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), will be recommended by your rheumy before he can confirm a polymyalgia diagnosis. The inflammation in the joints can be confirmed by the magnetic resonance imaging result.

Why do you need MRI when you have polymyalgia rheumatica? A whole body multi-joint MRI may be performed to verify the existence of PMR pattern and confirm inflammation of your joints and tissues. MRI can accurately detect other causes of pain and stiffness in your shoulders such as degenerative joint changes. From the results of the procedure, your rheumatologist can confirm polymyalgia and he can start your treatment.

MRI Procedure

MRI is a medical imaging machine. It makes use of powerful magnetic fields as well as radio waves to generate detailed images of the inside tissues or organs of your body. The scanner includes a large tube consisting of very powerful magnets.

You will be asked to lie down on the table of the scanner while the procedure is done. Your head, arms, and chest are strapped to secure you before the table is slid into the round opening surrounded by the magnets. You will be required to wear a gown or a loose clothing during the examination. While inside the tube, fan and air movement as well as tapping noises can be heard during the scanning process. If you get nervous during scanning, you will be given relaxation medicine such as a sedative.

Some examinations will require an injection of a contrast material into the blood vessels. It is important as well that you have no allergies to the contrast material which usually contains gadolinium. Although FDA has confirmed that there are no harmful effects identified with brain retention of Gadolinium-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging.

A magnetic resonance imaging can also form pictures of the physiological processes of your body from a health and disease standpoint. It does not use x-rays so it will not expose any patient to ionizing radiation. It also includes a computer that helps in generating detailed pictures. The obtained images can be examined from a computer monitor.

MRI in Diagnosing Polymyalgia

There are some significant findings in PMR patients revealed by magnetic resonance imaging machine. The scan showed tendinopathy in the rotator cuff which was frequently seen in PMR patients. The level of effusion in PMR patients are also high. The effusions were seen in the joint bursa and tendon sheath in the shoulder as well in the bursa of the hip. Periarticular soft tissue edema was also evident frequently in PMR patients. A supraspinatus tendon was significantly thicker in PMR patients than in rheumatoid arthritis patients. All these findings are good parameters for PMR diagnosis.

MRI and Other Tests

Your rheumatologist will collate the results of blood tests, MRI and your physical examination including your medical history to confirm polymyalgia diagnosis. Your rheumy will recommend blood tests like erythrocyte sedimentation rate or SED rate, test for C-reactive protein or CRP, and plasma viscosity or PV test. These tests help detect inflammation in your body.

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