Diagnosing Knee Problems

Your doctor has numerous diagnostic tools available that will help determine the extent of your knee injury or condition. Advanced technology such as magnetic resonance imaging and computerized axial tomography scans allow your doctor to visualize the inside of your knee without invasive procedures. Arthroscopy also provides a minimally invasive alternative for diagnosing and treating knee injuries.

To find out more about how knee injuries and conditions are diagnosed, select from the categories below.

Medical History

The medical history is the first step in the diagnostic process and helps your doctor understand not only what you are experiencing as symptoms, but also how the problem is affecting your life, mobility, and comfort. Your doctor will ask specific questions to determine whether your injury resulted from a particular incident, or if the problem has developed over time. This history also includes questions about any other illnesses you may have and medications you may be taking for other conditions, as well as information about previous knee problems.

Physical Examination

The physical examination is the assessment of how the knee looks and functions. It includes an assessment of any swelling or discoloration of the skin over the knee joint and a close observation of how well the knee can be moved through its normal range of motion. The limits of movement, usually as a result of pain, stiffness, or swelling, are also important to the evaluation.

Imaging Techniques

Imaging techniques your doctor may use include:

  • X-ray Films

    X-ray films provide a two-dimensional picture of the bones of the knee and may be useful in the detection of fractures or displacement of bones from torn supporting structures

  • Computerized Axial Tomography (CT) Scans

    CT scans provide a three-dimensional view of the knee, enabling your doctor to see your knee in cross-section and to examine soft tissues as well as bones

  • Bone Scans

    A bone scan is an imaging technique that involves an injection of a very small amount of radioactive material into the blood stream, which can then be detected by a nuclear scanner to provide an indirect image of blood flow to the bone. This can help detect abnormalities that are important in establishing a diagnosis

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    An MRI is similar in some ways to a CT scan, but instead a taking a series of x-ray images that are formulated by a computer into three-dimensional images, the MRI uses a powerful magnet that stimulates production of signals within the tissues being scanned. These signals are detected by the scanning device and translated by the computer into a series of cross-sections of a specific part of the knee. The MRI is especially useful in examining soft tissues of the knee for evidence of damage or disease


Arthroscopy is used as both a diagnostic tool and a surgical instrument. It involves using a small, lighted optic tube (the arthroscope), which is inserted into the joint through a small “buttonhole” incision in the knee. The structures of the knee are then projected onto a television screen, which enables your doctor to examine each structure directly and make certain repairs as well by insertion of the instrument.

For more information about injuries and conditions of the knee, please call (918) 494-AOOK (2665).