Do Sports Orthopods Rely Too Heavily on MRIs?
Leading specialists say magnetic resonance imaging can be misleading.
Published: November 1, 2011
Do sports medicine orthopedists lean too heavily and sometimes even overuse magnetic resonance imaging in their specialty? Many leading specialists say MRIs usually are unnecessary. In lieu of the expensive test, they say it's just as easy to diagnose a patient with a medical history, a physical exam and an X-ray.
In an article in The New York Times, leading sports medicine specialists oppose what they consider to be the abuse and overreliance of MRI use in their specialty.
James Andrews, MD, a prominent sports medicine orthopedist in Gulf Breeze, Fla., put his theory that MRIs can be misleading to the test. He scanned the shoulders of 31 healthy professional baseball pitchers, none of whom were injured or in pain. The MRIs found abnormal shoulder cartilage in 90% of them and abnormal rotator cuff tendons in 87%. "If you want an excuse to operate on a pitcher's throwing shoulder, just get an MRI," says Dr. Andrews.
Other surgeons quoted in the article are quick to point out that MRIs can be extremely useful in sports medicine. It's just that a fine line separates appropriate use and overuse.
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