MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans are fairly commonly used in musculoskeletal care, especially if we suspect something serious or red flags. While we do not have an MRI scanner at any of our sites, we have sourced regulated and reputable MRI scanning facilities close by. These are places where we have a referral pathway set-up.
If you require an MRI scan as a private patient, we can quickly and easily refer you to one of the trusted MRI scanning facilities we use. We have also negotiated very competitive rates for our patients, typically costing around £240-290 per scan depending on location and body part.
The process for having a scan privately is that first our physiotherapist or osteopath will discuss with you the requirements, body part, and potential diagnosis, and justify why a scan may or may not be required. This process is known as shared decision making. If the scan is justified, we would do an online or paper referral (depending on the facility) and send it via secure email, or via a secure portal. As a patient, you would then contact the MRI facility to book your appointment. We never accept a commission for referring you for an MRI scan. Once you have your scan, you will then be given a CD or DVD with your images, and we will be sent the report via post or email, or via the online portal. In some cases, we also have access to view your images online.
We also know a number of radiologists who report on scans, and if there is any query from our team or yourself about a report, in the first instance you can discuss this with your therapist. We often have huddles or in-service training about various diagnoses seen on images to improve our own knowledge. If a team member is unsure of the results, they will discuss the scans with a more senior member of the team. If we are still unsure, we may discuss the report or findings with the radiologist or other medical professional such as your GP.
Your consent to share your data with a third party is always requested. We feel it is important for you to have control over where your data is sent and how it is used, and if you have any questions you can speak to any one of our team.
If you require an MRI scan as an NHS patient, these are typically more difficult to access and depends on the area and locality. Different localities (or CCGs, Clinical Commissioning Groups) allow different levels of access to refer for scans. Most CCGs need to restrict access unless serious pathology is suspected, for example, a bone cancer. This is because many conditions can be diagnosed and successfully treated without a scan. While we would love to send everyone for an MRI scan, sadly we may not have the evidenced-based guidelines or authorization to do this, and we follow advice from the Royal College of Radiologists https://www.rcr.ac.uk/guidelines. In most areas, GPs also have very limited access to refer for MRI scan.
MRI scans are usually performed across joints, rather than areas. Hence a scan to a knee joint would be a normal request, but a scan to the leg would not be a normal request. The same applies to the spine; a scan to the lumbar spine (lower back) would constitute one part, but the whole spine would rarely be done together and would consist of three parts (lower back, upper back, and neck).
Rarely an MRI scan may need to be performed with contrast (usually gadolinium, a non-radiation substance), to help show the images more clearly. If this is the case, our physiotherapists will inform you. This type of scan is known as an MRA (Magnetic Resonance Arthrogram).