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    What does an MRI of the ankle show?

    Posted by Ravi Sohal on Fri, Apr 30, 2010

    mri ankle pictureMRI scans are frequently used to evaluate the internal structures of the ankle (you can read more about MRI here). A variety of trends have increased the use of MRI in evaluating our joints - more sports activity, increase in obesity rates, diabetes, and we've remained much more active into our later years than previous generations.

    If you've injured your ankle or have ankle pain, your doctor will probably first order an x-ray. After an x-ray, an MRI may be needed to evaluate the tendons, ligaments and bones of the ankle. On your doctor's order for the MRI you might see:

    "r/o stress fracture" - this refers to a "hairline" fracture of a bone that is not seen on an x-ray.

    "r/o ligament injury"- there are many tendons and ligaments which pass through the ankle area and can be injured or degenerate.

    "r/o osteochondral defect" - this is a defect of the bone and cartilage that can cause chronic pain.

    (FYI - "r/o" is short for "rule out")

    An MRI of the ankle will evaluate:


    An ankle MRI will include parts of the lower tibia, lower fibula and the ankle bones which include the talus, calcaneus and some of the forefooot bones. An ankle MRI can detect bone bruises, fractures, cysts, tumors, infection and dislocations. An MRI can also determine the extent of arthritis and assist in pre-operative planning.


    Ankle MRIs are very good at looking at the cartilage. MRI can detect cartilage fraying (like frayed edges of jeans), fissuring (cracks, similar to a dry river bed), and defects (the cartilage is missing). Damaged cartilage can lead to chronic pain and arthritis.

    Tendons and Ligaments

    Your ankle has a complex set of tendons and ligaments that an MRI can evaluate. The Achilles tendon is the large tendon at the back of your ankle. This can develop internal tears and cause pain. Tendons along the sides of your ankle can also develop tears and cause pain and a flattened arch for example. Ligaments like the deltoid ligament help suport your ankle. Any of these tendons and ligaments can be injured and the injury may only be seen on MRI.

    Soft Tissues

    This refers to the muscles and tissues around your ankle. An ankle MRI scan will show parts of the lower leg and foot muscles. An MRI can detect muscle tears, strains, tumors and infection. It can also detect fluid collections in the joints.

    Your Ankle MRI Scan

    An ankle MRI generally takes about 30 minutes or so to complete. If you are going for one, wear loose comfortable clothing and remember to remove all metal (jewelry, phones, rings, etc) before going into the MRI scan room. If you're insured, you may need to have your test authorized (approved) by your insurance company first. If you're uninsured and need to look up prices and buy an MRI scan of the ankle, you can use our website. Click here to see MRI scan costs.

    Have you had an Ankle MRI scan? What was it like? Please leave your comments below.



    Most of the swelling had gone down by the time they ordered an MRI on my foot, which was good. They have to push on it and keep it from moving. They played music in a headset so the time in there, which was 25 minutes, went by quickly.

    posted @ Sunday, April 03, 2011 6:42 PM by Ann

    I had a scan of my right ankle a couple of weeks ago, I was made very comfortable even though they had to immobilise the ankle for the scan, they did so gently as its very painful. The scan itself was quite strange, i felt all the scans through my lower leg and ankle joints, it was like tiny 'punches' and at one stage caused a moderate pain in lower leg. The radiologist explained after that sometimes the magnets stimulate the nerves. But is was ok not horrific.

    posted @ Wednesday, August 17, 2011 5:04 AM by lisa

    I was told to lie on a sliding bed with my head upon a pillow.My foot was supported in a padded cradle.half my body was slid into approx 2ft dia. tunnel for 30 minutes.Ear phones and music while the machine scanned.No discomfort.

    posted @ Sunday, October 16, 2011 12:26 PM by paul wright

    Nothing to be afraid to have. Your head does not go into the tube. It takes 20 minues,uneventful other than the noise which wasnt that bad as they gave me earplugs. I did feel pins and needles slightly in my foot as the MRI was scanning. It took only 20 minutes not bad at all.

    posted @ Wednesday, May 09, 2012 8:47 PM by Lori

    Thank you for the information on MRI ankle.. very very helpful..

    posted @ Thursday, May 10, 2012 6:42 PM by

    I am very claustophobic and was told that I could handle the MRI on my ankle because only my leg would go in and i get the headset. Well, I went in up to the chest, I was not warned that I could become too warm triggering a slight menopausal flash. I couldn't get through the entire test without a mild panic attack toward the end and missed the last of six screenings. I'm only sharing this because, had I known more, I would have taken a mild anti-anxiety med before the exam and know it would've helped and I would've gotten through the exam. Take heed, it really isn't bad but if you have claustrophobia, speak with your doctor first. Just sayin....

    posted @ Friday, June 01, 2012 6:49 PM by Margie

    I just had a scan of my left ankle two days ago, for 2 hours I had to immobilise my ankle which was killing me. Didn't feel anything throughout the scan but my foot got bit strain towards the end due to magnetic stimulation of the nerves. It wasn't too bad after all, my advice is to bring a friend along in the room or you will feel the longest hours in life with your leg "paralyzed". Don't understand why it took 2 hours instead of 30 minutes.

    posted @ Wednesday, June 06, 2012 1:31 AM by Florence

    I'm getting an ankle MRI on Monday, and I'm a tad freaked about being placed in a tube... although from the looks of these posts, I may only be in it from the chest down... I certainly hope so!  

    posted @ Friday, June 22, 2012 10:48 AM by Kae

    I just had my ankle MRI'd on friday..Was very open & the room very cool...was given ear plugs...They immobilized the ankle & padded it to keep from any movement. I have been through these before & am claustrophobic. But have never had any problems as this only went up to my knees.. I too felt minor pings when it hit nerves & a little discomfort in the ankle itself...all minor compared to the damage that I suffered when I feel. Over all.. very pleasent & considerate & very easy .

    posted @ Saturday, July 21, 2012 9:29 PM by Kay

    had mri of the ankle done very bad the room was like a sci-fi and kept missing my husband who was just outside waiting for me felt like banging the door to let me out.

    posted @ Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:49 AM by meena

    I had a MRI 1/2012, the doctor stated everything was normal, but I am still having pain in my left ankle. It feels like a burning sensation. My question,should the doctor ordered a MRI with Constrat instead of without to get a better reading.

    posted @ Thursday, September 13, 2012 8:16 AM by Pamela

    I had an MRI today and yes it only goes up to you chest. It moved up a couple of times, I got kind of nervous. It was the longest 30 minutes every! The tech nurse told me the machine would be taking 6 to 7 picture which were 4 to 2 minutes each. It felt like pins and wanted to move so bad to scratch my leg! I was so glad when was over, I felt so uncomfortable, cold and vonerable. I pray never have another one any time soon.

    posted @ Monday, October 01, 2012 9:50 PM by Claudette

    My 10yr old daughter had her mri last week, she was worried about it. However we went straight in, the nurse was brilliant. She spoke to my daughter asked what kind of music she liked then took her on the room. 
    I was allowed inuntil she was ready to go. 
    20 minites later it was over. Daughter came out happy :-)

    posted @ Monday, December 31, 2012 12:01 PM by hayley ally

    I had an MRI. It was a "no injection" (didn't use the dye) MRI. 30 minutes. Be sure you are positioned COMFORTABLY. I thought I was, but discovered I was basially laying on one hip side after I went "in." Had to stay that way for the whole time. Also, it's like...... once you go "in," something will itch and you gotta scratch. They can stop briefly if you "gotta scratch." About half way through my mouth was dry and I HAD to "cough." As another person mentioned, I, too, "felt" it, but it wasn't "punches." I felt tiny tiny "zings." I had to kick and scream to get an MRI. The first doctor I went to when I got injured didn't think it was required. I got a second opinion, doctor thought the problem was different than what the other doctor said, but still didn't think I needed MRI. Finally, I just screamed, "ONE DOCTOR SAID X, YOU SAID Y, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE?" Got the MRI. Now I'm told it showed "something." I will find out soon.

    posted @ Thursday, January 03, 2013 7:37 PM by

    my 14 yr old add/dyslexic, anxiety disorder daughter had an mri of her ankle...she was freaked out to start with...she has a hx of hepatic tumor so she thought she would have to have contrast and a needle but not so...everything was over in two hours, earbuds helped a lot....great kmc

    posted @ Wednesday, January 30, 2013 7:39 PM by kelly mcclary

    Had an ankle MRI today.  
    Took about 35 minutes. I was on my back with only my legs in the machine. Wasn't too loud (and I had earplugs). 
    No pain or discomfort. Hopefully it finds something. (They said I'd receive results in 2-3 days.)

    posted @ Monday, February 25, 2013 3:06 PM by Dig Doug

    just waiting for mine,having to have left foot rebuilt as its collapsed and some bones fused together,will report back wishes to all.

    posted @ Sunday, May 05, 2013 3:01 AM by micki

    I had an MRI done yesterday of my foot. I had X-Rays and were told foot not broken. Foot still swollen and hurts really bad. Doctor ordered an MRI. Don't know what it will show. It has been a week since I feel.

    posted @ Friday, May 10, 2013 9:31 AM by Janell

    I had MRI of my ankle/lower extremity scheduled by PCP to test for CRPS formerly known as RSD. This was an L&I injury for self insured hospital. Their ortho surgeon (who 1st diagnosed the CRPS) canceled the test stating they dont have coils for lower extemities & have to "Jerry-rig head coils, so he could get all the information he needed from my standing x-rays. I have since learned that MRI's are one of the best test to rule in or out CRPS & the key to treatment is early, aggressive treatment or it will become irreversable. My question is do they have coils to fit lower extremities? My case is in mediation at the state level as ex employer is self insured for L&I & IME's have lied very well for their meal ticket

    posted @ Friday, July 26, 2013 6:12 AM by Patricia Dunn, RN

    I was so afraid to have an MRI scheduled for 8/1/13 but when I got there I realized how silly that was. I was sticking out from about my waist up and I'm only 5'2" tall. They said it would take about 45 minutes but it felt like 20. I wore ear plugs because the machine is very very loud but no one should be afraid of an ankle MRI at all!

    posted @ Sunday, August 04, 2013 8:42 PM by Ani

    I had an MRI today on my was the most painful experience of my life and i hope i never have to go through it again! the whole time i felt like my foot was on fire. I felt the magnetic waves go up and down my legs, it was horrible, i was in tears! desperately wanting it to end. when i got up i told the nurse about the pain and that i had pins and needles, but he said it was proberly because of the posititon of my foot????

    posted @ Tuesday, August 06, 2013 3:37 PM by jennifer turner

    Just had an MRI on my ankle today. It's been 3 months in waiting. I so hope they can get to the bottom of what's causing this constant pain in my ankle and foot. Pain so bad on days.  
    The MRI itself was totally painless. Had to have my foot in a cradle . Just my lower half went the scanner. 30 minutes listening to my local radio station.  
    Results in 2.5 wks can not come round quick enough. 

    posted @ Sunday, January 12, 2014 9:52 AM by Shirl williams

    My MRI was done a year ago and results came the same moment. But ankle and foot still not healed. I am on orthopedic support boots and walk with the help of a walker. Though movement has returned the ankle and foot cannot weight bear.  
    It seems that poor treatment at the beginning of the ligament tear and repeat injuries due to lack of strength.  
    Don't know how much longer it will take. Be sure to get a proper physiotherapist. I live in a small town and there is not much facility here. If you have facility then you should definitely get it.

    posted @ Tuesday, January 14, 2014 12:05 AM by anjali

    I had an MRI of my left ankle yesterday, as I had my foot run over by an automobile on New Years Eve. Initial x-ray showed no fracture, but orthopedic Dr. said I should have an MRI to rule out stress fracture or ligament or tendon damage. Still very bruised, but MRI was very comfortable and only took 25 min. Still waiting results 2-3 days....

    posted @ Saturday, January 18, 2014 9:32 AM by Beatrice Tramuta

    Im due to have a MRI on my ankle, the last tome I had a MRI scan for something else I was left with the fear of going into elevators/lifts, the fear was terrifying, I have recently got over the experience, till now knowing Im having to go through this again, I am really scared, it felt like being in a coffin. 

    posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 1:11 PM by Ruby-Rose

    I had an MRI on my foot a couple years ago when one doctor said "stress fracture" and another said "nothing". 
    It wasn't bad at all. It took maybe 30-45 min and I was only in up to my waist. They gave me music to listen to. 
    There was a bit of a tingling sensation like pins and needles. 
    This time, I fell and hurt my ankle back at the beginning of October. I ended up with blood clots so they put in an IVC filter. When they went in to remove the filter, there were complications and they had to perform surgery similar to open heart surgery. 
    Needless to say, my ankle has kind of been put on the back burner. I have only had an x-ray on my ankle, it still hurts 4 months later, and I'm finally scheduled for a MRI this Monday. 
    Hopefully they see something and it can be fixed.

    posted @ Saturday, February 08, 2014 7:01 PM by Ashley

    I had a previous injury a year ago and several x-rays, showed swelling of the soft tissue. Pain and swollen for the whole year. Went on a trampoline and re-injured my ankle (blew up like a balloon) bruising all up my leg and down my foot, my foot was so red it looked as if I was burned with hot water. Another x-ray and again showed tissue swelling. FINALLY my MRI was last Friday 9:45 pm. MRI itself was good, my problem was every time ( an hour long MRI) they had to move my ankle which was constant for the images I had shooting pain up the front of my leg and my foot felt as though it was swelling just on top near my last 3 toes. They had my ankle in the brace for the MRI. As I left out of the hospital my foot was so dead and in so much pain it was had the walk :( Not a fault of the Tech she was amazing! Just the long injury has made things worse. Thank God I find out this Friday how things went and get my appointment with a bone specialist

    posted @ Sunday, June 22, 2014 11:17 PM by Teresa

    I have to have a mri on my ankle and I am scared because I don't know what to expect. Thank you 
    for preparing me for some of the things to look forward to.

    posted @ Thursday, June 26, 2014 6:25 PM by shelly

    Does an mri show a bone infection in foot ?

    posted @ Tuesday, July 08, 2014 11:59 AM by Mary

    my ankle had to be immobilised which was kind of uncomfortable. the noises the machine made were very uncomfortable even though i had in earplugs.

    posted @ Wednesday, September 10, 2014 12:38 PM by jadalee

    Had my second mri today October 4th, 2014 4 years after my first due to many surgery's not correcting my problem waited about a week and they called to say my appt was November 15. Called just 2 days ago and said it was changed to today. I was supper nervous but all the people were supper nice (I was at a children's hospital) I was also scarred because my mom couldn't come in with me as I'm 15 years old. They put my ankle in a boot like thing and padded it well to help with movement the scan it's self last about 35 mins and I was only in up to my belly button (I'm in between 5'5 and 5'6) at some points I could feel some pain almost like pins and needles or my foot falling asleep. Pain was not unbearable as I have very low pain tolerance just a little uncofertable. They gave me headphones with a local radio station playing which I got to pick. Nothing to be affaried of!

    posted @ Saturday, October 04, 2014 7:35 PM by Zoe

    I have had "plantar fasciitis" (I've been told) for a year this month and it's getting worse and worse. Finally found a doc who will look deeper into what it might be. Hope this MRI will show something???

    posted @ Thursday, October 23, 2014 9:53 AM by Karen

    I'm scheduled for an MRI 9left ankle) tomorrow and im kind of embrassed because im overweight and dont know if i will fit in the Tubey thingy..yes my first time...they said the MRI machine is kind of old school so idk know what to expect ...very scared of my fitting in tube because they said the older one is smaller hopefully just my ankle goes in the tube lol thanks for the comments they really helped!!!

    posted @ Thursday, February 05, 2015 10:28 PM by Crylop

    I am about to go and do my MRI and I am glad I read some of the comments kind of scary but I am going with faith and god so he will see me through and prepare for the best because its a must my ankle is swelling and paining me so badly since it was sprain aproximately 3yrs ago unknowingly and i have done mannners of things to it by jumping down dancing for hours and didnt know after i fell off two steps went to the doctor they x trayed my big toes but didnt find anything and they didnt have the common sense to go further and xtray my ankle and it was the damaged area but god is good so i have made up my mind to do it for my health 

    posted @ Wednesday, February 11, 2015 9:50 AM by maureen

    Had MRI with contrast of foot today to rule out bone infection. During the MRI, I experienced excruciating pain during the various segments of the test. It felt like my foot was on fire and throbbing so bad it was difficult to keep still. I told the tech, he said it was likely because my foot was in an odd position. I know it was more than that, the pain I felt was from the MRI.  

    posted @ Tuesday, March 17, 2015 2:17 AM by Mimi

    I had an mri yesterday on my left ankle I have had shooting pains and swelling for 2 years now ever since I fell down the stairs ... The scan itself was fine but I founf the immobility of my foot in the cradle was really painful by the end I was in tears and my ankle was like a balloon .... Hopefully will find out what is causing the pain in 10 days (hopefully ) after waiting for so long it will be a weight of my mind ... Would be great if there was feedback on other peoples results 😊

    posted @ Sunday, May 10, 2015 2:29 AM by Debbie

    I'm reading all if he reviews. My ankles have been hurting on the inside right on the bone. Sounds like I need an MRI. I will set one up asap!

    posted @ Sunday, June 07, 2015 5:20 AM by Travis

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