Is an MRI 100% accurate?

Jerr Member Posts: 3
edited 21. May 2019, 06:49 in Living with arthritis
Hey all, first time post here, just a question about MRI scans. But first, a bit of a background to my situation. (sorry for the long post)

Started getting pain in my left hip back last August, my GP sent me for an x-ray, which showed a Femoroacetabular impingement(pincer impingement) and minor osteoarthritis, and referred me to Orthopedics.

Orthopedics sent me for an MRI scan and blood tests, as they were also checking for Ankylosing spondylitis(due to some narrowing of both sacroiliac joints) and Rheumatoid arthritis.

My bloods were normal(the test for AS hadn't come back by this point), and my MRI was clear. It showed no impingement and no visible cartilage damage/labral tear. They did say there was some excess bone growth on the acetabular, which they believed was caused by an injury. They then referred me to Rheumatology, querying seronegative arthritis.

Rheumatology referred me straight back to my GP. So went back to see my GP(different GP to the one who diagnosed me first time) Rhuematology hadn't sent anything new to the GP, so the GP told me it's probably just wear and tear, and to phone in a few weeks to see if anything new had been sent by Rheumatology. They didn't.

I've had a pretty bad flare up over the past few weeks, so went back to my GP(saw the GP who originally diagnosed me)and she read through the history since I saw her last. Referred to my flare up as an arthritis flare up, and that the excess bone growth is a bone spur, and it is rubbing against bone. She also mentioned the possibility that it will get worse over the next few months, so to keep an eye on how much pain i'm in, and if it increases.

Reading up on bone spurs, the main cause is joint damage from OA, but as the MRI showed no cartilage damage, the ortho Doc said it's not OA. There is a chane they can be caused by an injury to the hip, which is what the ortho Doc believed caused the bone growth, but i've never had any injury whatsoever to my hip, and i'm 99.9% sure of that.

All this has left me even more confused than I was before, and left me questioning my MRI results.

So can an MRI miss some cartilage damage or are they 100% accurate? Has anyone had an MRI turn out to be wrong?

Any help or insight you can give me would be great. Again, sorry for the long post, and thanks for reading.


  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 3,636
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hello and welcome Jerr to Versus Arthritis Community Forum

    I'm sorry to had to find us because of recent MRI, I can understand your reasons for asking the question. Reading your introduction you certainly have been through the various options for test, it's not something as a moderator I can give you a proper answer on. What I'm suggesting is we throw your question open to the forum users whom I had have no doubt been through the processes as you have and should be able to offer some good sound advice and support.

    Also, an alternative is to have a little chat with Versus Arthritis Helpline on Monday, the telephone number is 0800 520 0520.

    Enjoy the forum

  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I'm swearing like a trooper: I had just replied at length to your post then my effing fingers drifted across the wrong keys, for once my tablet chose to react to the lightest touch and obliterated the lot. :x

    Right, the short version.

    I have had two MRIs to show the inflammation caused by my sero-negative arthritis (psoriatic, PsA) and X-rays to show the level of damage caused by my OA. X-rays show physical damage but not liquid inflammation so in that respect MRIs are more accurate as they are able to show different things. This observation is based purely on my experience and has no medical provenance whatsoever.

    I began the auto-immune arthritis back in 1997 but it was not accurately diagnosed as PsA until 2006. Rheumatology were initially reluctant to accept me as one of theirs but had to late in 2002. The OA in my knees was diagnosed by X-ray in 2011 so I am an old hand at living with both. The PsA was no surprise as I was blessed with defective genes but the OA was because I thought that having arthritis was an either/or, I never knew both was a possibility. A thought about your hip: it is possible to unwittingly cause joint damage at any age which sows the seed for later troubles, a cause of OA is often joint trauma the origin of which is so far back in time it has been forgotten.

    I daren't risk another disaster so will submit. I have been overdoing things and my fingers (a prime site for PsA) are not happy.
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,098
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Jerr and welcome from me too.

    None of us are docs so all we can give is our non-professional opinions but, like DD, I've 'done the double' of RA (in my case) and OA so we know a bit about these things.

    The good news is your docs all seem to have been thorough, on the ball, thorough and pretty quick to get things done. It might not seem like that to you but, in the grand scheme of things, believe me it is.

    Is an MRI 100% accurate? I guess they're only as accurate as the person reading them but let's take it from another angle. Medics often refer to OA as 'wear and tear'. Many people hate this because they feel it trivialises what, to them, can be quite severe pain. I suspect they do this partly, at least, because there's not much they can do for OA. It's a matter of physio, pain relief, anti-inflammatories when needed and then surgery.

    You feel yours can't be OA because you haven't had a hip injury. I'm not sure it requires an injury in that sense. All you've written suggests that things could just have got a bit misaligned for some reason and, with consequent bone spurs.

    Please don't just take my word for this. Have a chat with your GP. They're good at explaining things. I understand that you will be puzzled as to how this can be but many things in arthritic life are a mystery. Why, can be the biggest mystery of all.

    The good news is that you don't have an autoimmune form of arthritis. They can be quite sneaky beasts but OA, though horrible in itself, is a bit more honest. We do too much and it hurts. We can usually work backwards to see why it's hurting. And try not to do so much in future. Though we all push our luck from time to time.

    This might help
  • Jerr
    Jerr Member Posts: 3
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thanks for the advice and insight. I went back to see my GP this morning and she confirmed it's not OA, but could develop into it.

    I think the reason I was questioning my scan results cause I just couldn't believe a bit of extra bone growth could cause the amount of pain and discomfort i've been in, but I suppose it depends where the bone growth is.

    For now i'm going back to physio in a 2 weeks time, see if they can do anything more, and I phoned orthopedics to see if I could get another appointment, as it turns out I wasn't discharged from them. But depending on what the physio says, I may just cancel any appointment they give me, as I really don't know what else they could do.

    Anyway, thanks again for the advice.
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    There are two professions where people think they know more than the practitioners: medicine and teaching. I was a teacher specialising in dyslexia and received tons of misinformation from those who thought they knew what they were talking about and that I was an utter moron: the fact that everyone has be to school does not smoke them an expert in teaching. Unless you are a practising orthopaedic surgeon I doubt very much that you are able to gauge what can or cannot be done.

    Every case is different, everyone is affected differently, different surgeons have different ideas and solutions. Physiotherapy will not stop the pain, doing exercise will not stop the pain but there might be a surgical option that might reduce it: you won't know unless you pursue every avenue of enquiry. I know that there is nothing to be done for me but I am twenty-one years in: you're a beginner, in the early stages, so who knows? The cause could be something as simple as a twisted ankle ten years ago; that would have caused you to walk awkwardly for a while, throwing other joints out of kilter and they've not fully recovered. Modern humans generally have dreadful posture, appalling walking styles, are utterly unable to sit up straight and end up wondering why they have backache. :lol:

    At this stage I think it important to attend any appointment you are offered until things are resolved and you know where you are: dipping out of the system at this stage means that if you do need help you have to start again from the beginning so it's worth staying in the loop, even if you feel it is a waste of time. Good luck and please let us know how you get on. DD
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,098
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    If orthopaedics still have you on their lists it's for a reason and I wouldn't personally take myself off it as it's much easier and quicker to take oneself off than to get back on. If, subsequently, they send you an appointment that you still feel you don't need, just cancel it asap and someone else will be very grateful.

    I hope the physio helps.

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