General Guidelines for Ordering Advanced MSK Imaging Studies

Below are some general principles to follow when ordering Musculoskeletal (MSK) imaging studies:

  • Obtaining plain films initially are helpful to evaluate pain, even if internal derangement is suspected.
  • MRI for soft tissues, internal derangement, occult fracture, bone marrow.
  • MRI arthrogram to rule out labrum tear in the hip or shoulder and to evaluate triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC), scapholunate ligament or lunatotriquetral ligament in the wrist.
  • If MRI is contrainidicated, such as a patient with a pacemaker, CT arthrography is the next best test for internal derangement (cuff tear, meniscal tear, ligament tear).  You can also substitute an MRI arthrogram for labrum and TFCC.
  • Ultrasound for problem solving and non-radio-opaque foreign body.
  • It is acceptable to state “contrast per radiologist discretion” when ordering MRI and CT.  However, please indicate CT arthrogram or MRI arthrogram when intra-articular contrast is desired as additional planning and scheduling is required at imaging. Arthrograms require different additional planning and scheduling than for just the contrast used for an MRI or CT.
  • When in doubt, please do not hesitate to call one of our subspecialized Musculoskeletal Radiologists at (310) 423-572

Why Choose the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center for Musculoskeletal studies and procedures?

Common Questions

When do I order an MRI arthrogram?

An MRI arthrogram is used to rule out a labrum tear in the hip or shoulder, and to evaluate triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC), the scapholunate ligament or the lunatotriquetral ligament in the wrist.

When do I order a CT arthrogram?

A CT arthrogram is used for:

  • Knee to rule out a meniscus tear
  • Shoulder to rule out a rotator cuff tear or labral tear
  • Wrist to rule out a TFCC tear, scapholunate ligament tear or a lunatotriquetral ligament tear

If you just need to rule out an occult fracture, order a non-contrast CT.

What if there is a contraindication to MRI, such as a pacemaker?

If an MRI cannot be done, a CT arthrogram can be performed (see Rotator Cuff Tear).



  • Labral Tear (MRI arthrogram, not MRI with contrast)
  • Rotator Cuff Tear (MRI or, if contraindicated, CT arthrogram)
  • SLAP - Labrum Tear (MRI arthrogram)





If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call to consult one of our Musculoskeletal Radiologists at (310) 423-5720.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center provides a full range of advanced imaging, both radiology and cardiology, as well as interventional radiology and interventional tumor (oncology) treatments to the greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, Encino, Mid-Cities, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Toluca Lake, and West Hollywood.