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Wrist  MRI

Learn more about the wrist, what can be detected when it's scanned, and why you might need it scanned.

A Wrist MRI Scan: What to expect?

Our daily lives are increasingly shaped by technology, with more time spent online and hands constantly engaged with laptops or smartphones. This rise in handheld device usage has been linked to a concerning trend - a growing incidence of wrist injuries, with studies indicating that 7-16% of people in the UK may develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

The wrist is a complex joint, comprising numerous small bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. This anatomical intricacy makes it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of wrist pain through physical examination or X-rays alone. In such cases, a wrist MRI scan can be invaluable, allowing healthcare providers to accurately identify the nature and severity of any wrist damage.

Wrist pain can affect individuals across all age groups, particularly those who engage in strenuous, repetitive tasks. However, the prevalence tends to increase as we grow older, often becoming more prevalent in middle age.

If you have been experiencing persistent wrist discomfort and are considering a wrist MRI scan, it is important to understand what to expect from the procedure. By undergoing this advanced imaging test, you can empower your healthcare team to develop an effective treatment plan and facilitate your recovery, helping you regain full function and mobility in this critical joint.

Who is at Risk for Wrist Pain?

Several key factors can increase the risk of developing wrist pain:

  1. Increased Technology Use: The search results indicate a correlation between the rise in handheld technology use (e.g., laptops, smartphones) and an increase in wrist injuries, particularly conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  2. Occupational Factors: Individuals who perform strenuous, repetitive tasks as part of their jobs, such as assembly line work, typing, or manual labor, are at a higher risk of developing wrist pain.
  3. Age-Related Changes: The search results note that wrist pain becomes more prevalent as people age, particularly starting in middle age.
  4. Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, can increase the risk of wrist pain by causing inflammation, joint damage, and reduced mobility.
  5. Wrist Injuries: Previous wrist injuries, such as sprains, fractures, or dislocations, can predispose individuals to ongoing wrist pain and instability.

In summary, the key risk factors for wrist pain include increased technology use, occupational demands, age-related changes, underlying medical conditions, and a history of wrist injuries. Recognizing these risk factors can help individuals take proactive steps to prevent or manage wrist pain.

How is an MRI of the Wrist Joint Done? Does your whole body go in for a Wrist MRI?

No, a wrist MRI does not require the whole body to be imaged. A wrist MRI is focused specifically on the wrist joint and surrounding anatomy. 


  • You will be asked to remove any metal objects, jewelry, or clothing with metal fasteners.
  • You may be provided a gown to wear during the scan.
  • If contrast dye is needed, an IV line may be placed in your arm.


  • You will lie down on a motorized table that slides into the MRI machine.
  • The technologist will position your wrist in the centre of the machine using padding or straps to keep it still.


  • The MRI machine uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to take detailed images of the bones, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues in your wrist.
  • The machine will make loud knocking or thumping noises during the scan, so you'll be provided earplugs or headphones.
  • It's crucial to remain very still during the 15-60 minute scan to get clear images.

Contrast Injection (if needed):

  • If contrast dye is required, it will be injected through the IV line during the imaging process.
  • The contrast helps highlight certain structures and abnormalities.

After the Scan:

  • Once complete, the table will slide out of the machine.
  • If an IV was used, it would be removed.
  • You can typically drive yourself home after the MRI unless sedation is provided.
  • A radiologist will analyze the images and provide a report to your doctor.

What does Wrist MRI show?

  • Fractures, dislocations, erosions, and other bony abnormalities in the distal radius, ulna, and carpal bones 
Joints and Ligaments
  • Evaluation of the radiocarpal, midcarpal, and distal radioulnar joints
  • Assessment of ligaments such as the extrinsic carpal ligaments (palmar and dorsal radiocarpal ligaments), intrinsic carpal ligaments (scapholunate, lunotriquetral), and ulnocarpal ligaments 
  • Detection of ligament tears, sprains, and instability 
Tendons and Soft Tissues
  • Evaluation of the extensor and flexor tendons, including tenosynovitis, tendon tears, and tendinopathy 
  • Assessment of the thenar and hypothenar soft tissues, including the carpal tunnel and Guyon's canal 
  • Identification of soft tissue masses, cysts, and other abnormalities 

How Long Does a Wrist MRI Take?

A typical wrist MRI takes about 10–30 minutes. In certain cases, your radiologist may use a contrast material, usually iodine, to enhance specific wrist structures. If contrast is used, the scan may take 30–45 minutes.

Remaining very still during the scan is crucial, as any sudden movements can blur the images. If the images are unclear, the scan may need to be repeated.

Schedule Your MRI scan

Wrist pain is frustrating. If you are looking to identify the cause of your pain, consider getting an MRI wrist scan. An early diagnosis is key to making a quick recovery.

Opting for a private MRI scan can help you avoid long wait times often associated with public healthcare systems like the NHS, leading to a quicker diagnosis and the first step toward rehabilitation and returning to your normal life.

Ready to take the first step toward relief? Book your MRI scan today and start your journey to recovery. Don't let wrist pain hold you back any longer - schedule your scan now.

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

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