Should I Scan My Injury? Are Scans Necessary?
After sustaining an injury, some people’s first thought is ‘should I get an x-ray, should i get a scan?’ The short answer is; it depends. Scans can be very helpful at times, but a lot of the times they can be referral for too frequently.
Getting a scan for your injury may not definitively give you the reason for your pain. Many people suffer from pain and will have scans that don’t come up with any abnormalities. On the other hand, there will be many that are asymptomatic, but have things come up on their scan. Additionally, conditions that the scans may identify may have been present before the onset of your pain. In other words, an MRI scan that picks up a tear in your shoulder will not tell you when you sustained that tear, meaning there is a chance that you’ve had the tear for years before you started feeling pain in the shoulder.
There are situations where scans can be super useful, especially if the severity of the injury is uncertain and influences your management plans. For example, in the case of a traumatic injury which commonly happens in sports which may result in a fracture or a high grade tear or ligament sprain, scans can help us determine whether we need to immobilize the joint, opt for a surgical opinion or pursue conservative treatment.
Conclusively, don’t be too afraid of the contents of the scan. A lot of things that pop up on scans are asymptomatic and/or normal with age such as degenerative changes. Often times surgery can be avoided and ‘anomalies’ that come up on scans can be treated conservatively.