Sternum MRI scan | Medserena Open MRI

Medserena’s Sternum MRI scan

MRI scan of the Sternum; non-invasive procedure to help diagnose medical conditions relating to the Sternum and surrounding cartilage, price includes:

  • Open and Upright MRI scan
  • 30 minutes appointment
  • Radiologist findings report
  • Images on USB at the end of the scan
    and available to NHS trusts via IEP on request
  • Complimentary refreshments

Please wear metal free clothing and if possible, avoid wearing any jewellery. Alternatively, Medserena can provide you with a gown to change into for your scan. Scroll down for more Sternum and surrounding cartilage MRI scan information.

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About Sternum MRI scans

The sternum is joined to the ribs by connective ‘shock absorber’ tissue called cartilage which can degenerate due to ‘wear and tear’ (osteoarthritis) or inflammation, and cause chest pain. The sternum can also be fractured in car accidents on impact with the steering wheel or seat belt, causing severe chest pain.

An MRI scan is a good choice for investigating sternum pain as it’s shows up cartilage and soft tissue clearer than a CT scan, making it easier to differentiate between the two and make the correct diagnosis.

Medserena’s sternum MRI scan is done in an upright open scanner with the patient in a seated position and takes around 45 minutes to perform. The open nature of the scanner makes it a more acceptable option for patients who suffer from claustrophobia who fear being examined in a confined space such as a tunnel MRI scanner.

What conditions can a sternum MRI scan detect?

These include:

  • Fractured sternum: Fracture to the sternum is a common injury in drivers and passengers in car crashes. They can be extremely painful as it’s an area of the body you can’t rest as it’s in constant use for breathing. A fractured sternum takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks to heal.[i]
  • Costochondritis: This is inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the sternum to the ribs. It is sometimes caused by osteoarthritis but can start spontaneously. Because of the proximity of the sternum to the heart this type of chest pain is often confused with cardiac pain.
  • Funnel chest: The medical name for this condition is pectus excavatum and refers to when the sternum is sunken instead of being level with the ribs. This can make it difficult to breathe in completely and can affect stamina.[ii] It is a congenital condition that affects around one in 1,000 children. The condition can be corrected with surgery in severe cases and MRI is useful for assessing the extent of the chest wall abnormality.
  • Metastatic cancer: A sternum MRI scan can also be used to detect cancer that has spread from other sites such as the lung, oesophagus, or breast.
  • Benign growths: MRI can also pick-up benign tumours.
  • Capsular hypertrophy: The sterno-clavicular joints, where the sternum joins the clavicle(collar bone), are covered in a sac-like envelope called the capsule. This can become enlarged and subchondral cysts (fluid-filled spaces) can form inside the joint extending from one of the bones. Sclerosis (hardening of tissue) may also develop. This can cause pain, swelling and stiffness.

Other benefits of a Medserena MRI scan

Open MRI scanners are a stress-free alternative to using a conventional enclosed tunnel MRI scanner, providing comfort and reassurance for people who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia. Sitting upright is more comfortable for patients and the open front means patients can speak to a friend or relative or watch television throughout as distraction.

Open MRI scans can also accommodate larger/ heavier patients who might have difficulty fitting comfortably into a conventional tunnel scanner, as they can take weights of up to 35 stone (226kg). However, suitability will depend on the patient’s build and the area of anatomy that needs to be scanned.


The Upright MRI is truly open. There are no tunnels, no narrow tubes. The system is particularly quiet, the examination is comfortable and does not trigger feelings of being in a confined space. This means that the Upright MRI is particularly tolerated by patients who suffer from “claustrophobia”.

Because the system offers you an unrestricted view, you can watch TV or see DVD movies on a large screen during the scan. Wearing headphones – as with other MRI systems – is usually not necessary.

According to the current state of knowledge, there is no danger to the patient’s health as magnetic resonance imaging only uses magnetic fields and radio waves.

Metallic foreign bodies within the patient, such as fixed dental prosthesis, artificial joints or metal plates after treatment for a fracture do not usually pose any danger. However, it is important to clarify that the implants you use are MRI-compatible before the examination.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) utilises a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to form images of your body. It is non-invasive, painless and does not use any ionising radiation.

Our truly open MRI can scan you in different positions. Through the utilisation of a specially designed MRI system we can offer weight-bearing scans – sitting or standing. The design of the system allows the patient to be positioned in different postures (e.g. flexion or extension) so that the patient may be examined in the position where they experience pain. The reason to do this is that some pathologies are underestimated or even not seen in a conventional supine MRI scan. The technique has value in many applications: e.g. spine, knees, hips, ankles. This has been proven in scientific studies and documented in peer reviewed publications.

In addition, it offers the possibility of performing an MRI scan on patients who could not otherwise tolerate the examination. This may include the claustrophobic patient, who benefits from the truly open nature of the equipment, and the severely kyphotic patient or emphysema sufferer who simply cannot lie down. It can also facilitate scanning of large patients who struggle to fit conventional ‘bore’ MRI scanners.

Of course, we have a comfortable waiting area but if you want them to stay in the scan room with you, they will also need to fill out a safety questionnaire. There is enough space for a companion. The person can even hold your hand and communicate with you during the examination. This is particularly beneficial when examining teenager.

This depends above all on which part of the body needs to be examined. In the Upright MRI, special examinations can be carried out in various body positions. The entire scan generally takes between 30 and 45 minutes. However, since you have the opportunity to watch TV or DVD, this time will go by much quicker.

Eat and drink normally and, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, please continue taking medications as normal. If you have any special needs (e.g. wheelchair access) please inform us when making the appointment.

Your appointment confirmation; referral letter/form; Medical Insurance details if applicable. We accept all major debit/credit cards.

We will provide a gown/clothing for you to wear when you are scanned. If you prefer to wear your own, please ensure that you wear or bring clothing without any metal fasteners, zips or under-wiring as these cannot be worn in the scan room. The changing room can be locked for safe storage of your possessions.

You will be able to walk into the scanner. It has no tunnel or bore. You will be able to hear us and talk with us during your scan if necessary-and we will be able to see you at all times. Due to its open nature, you will even be able to watch TV or a DVD whilst having the scan. Depending on which part of you is being scanned, you may be asked to sit or stand, and assume different postures (for example bending forward.) The radiographer may place a receiver “coil” around the relevant area of your body. You will need to remain very still while the acquisition is done in order to prevent blurring of the images. You will hear some tapping from the scanner but in general it is much quieter than many other MRI scanners.

You will not feel anything while having the scan. There is no pain or unusual feeling of any type and you will experience no after effects.

YES. There are some things that can prevent you from having an MRI scan. You will be asked to complete a safety questionnaire on arrival at the Centre which will cover the contra-indications-but if you are making an appointment and any of the factors below affect you, please discuss this with us in advance as it may save you a wasted trip.

Contra-indications can include:

  • Pacemaker
  • IUDs
  • Surgical clips
  • Pregnancy
  • Metal fragments in the body
  • Metal pins/plates/screws
  • Joint replacements
  • Metal objects in eyes
  • Cochlear implants
  • IVC filters
  • Metal heart valves
  • Penile implants

It is also important to tell us if you have any tattoos or piercings.

Watches, jewellery, coins, keys, cigarette lighters, penknives, credit cards. piercings, hairgrips, wigs, nicotine patches, and hearing aids must be removed.

Your scan will be reported by a Consultant Radiologist. It will normally be available in a couple of days unless needed urgently. The images and report will be sent to your referring practitioner. If you have a follow up appointment, please make us aware of the details so we can ensure the report and images are available in time.