How to Read an MRI of a PCL Tear

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Colorado knee specialist Dr. Robert LaPrade breaks down the specific on how to read an MRI of a PCL tear. This specific case shows an isolated PCL tear.

Starting with sagittal images on the lateral side of the knee, you can see the menisci and closer to the midline you can see the anterior cruciate ligament come into view. On the tibial and femoral side you can see there is disruption and fluid at the ends of the PCL. Normally, the PCL is a dark band and in this case it is a lighter color indicating a complete tear.

In some cases a medial meniscal root tear can be present with a PCL, so moving more towards the medial side of the knee we want to look for any ghost signs of the medial meniscal root.

Continuing to the coronal view we will look for the medial cruciate ligament. In the center, we will be looking for the PCL attachment. You can see increased signal intensity and the disrupted PCL. In this view is is also important to check on the meniscal root attachments when a PCL tear is present.

The last image is the axial view. This is useful to evaluate the menisci, identify if there are any bone bruises or any other injured structures. We can also see swelling on the PCL attachment site on the tibia.