MRI imaging of the patella provides information that a plain X-ray cannot.

Specifically the MRI allows the doctor to evaluate the articular cartilage under the patella and over the trochlear groove. The doctor can see if there is a lesion of the articular cartilage, and can get a sense of its location, its width and its depth. The presence or absence of such a lesion will affect the treatment offered to the patient.

The ability of the doctor to detect these lesions is dependent on the MRI software. Specifically articular cartilage imaging software is required and not every MRI unit has this software. If you walk into the average MRI facility and you say “I want an MRI of my knee” the view that you get of the cartilage will be fair at best. If you go into a place that has this specific imaging software, the articular cartilage shows up as a very bright, white structure and the slightest changes are visible.