MRI of the ankle joint


With the help of imaging techniques, different diseases and injuries in the area of the ankle joint can be distinguished from each other. Ankle joint injuries are frequently occurring sports injuries. Severe overstretching of the ligaments during “buckling” (supination trauma) leads to an injury of the ligament apparatus.

A precise diagnosis of the affected ligaments without imaging is usually difficult. For this reason, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used, which, compared to other imaging procedures (X-ray, CT), provides better visualization of the ligaments, cartilage and other soft tissue structures. In addition, MRI examinations can be used to identify and differentiate between signs of wear in the cartilage and inflammatory changes in the joints. Tumor-like lesions of the soft tissues and bones can also be assessed.


Compared to other imaging methods, MRI is characterized by a particularly high soft tissue contrast. This means that structures of connective tissue (e.g. ligaments, cartilage), muscles and fatty tissue in particular can be clearly distinguished from each other. For this reason, MRI is the first choice for the diagnosis of torn ligaments in the area of the ankle joint, inflammation and cartilage and tendon injuries.

Patients with ligament and muscle tendon injuries in the ankle often complain of severe pain in the foot (at rest or while walking) or ankle area, of a feeling of instability or restricted movement. Severe swelling in the area of the ankle is also possible. Inflammation in the area of the joints occurs in rheumatoid diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis).

In this case, the joints are attacked by the patient’s own immune system, which manifests itself through pain, swelling and limited mobility. Signs of wear and tear in the area of the cartilaginous surfaces of the joints occur more frequently in old age or under heavy strain. These also manifest themselves through pain and limited mobility of the foot.

There are two different types of ankle joints: the upper ankle joint and the lower ankle joint. Injuries to the ligamentous apparatus occur most frequently in the area of the outer ligaments of the upper ankle joint. A lateral bending of the foot often leads to a strong overstretching of the outer ligaments with the danger of a tear.

It is a classic sports injury, which occurs more frequently in soccer, handball and tennis. It initially causes severe pain in the ankle area (stabbing, localized), accompanied by swelling. In the further course of time, this pain increasingly radiates into the foot and legs.