An arthrogram is a study involving a special type of x-ray called fluoroscopy. An arthrogram is usually performed in joints such as the shoulder, knee, hip or ankle. This exam is often done to see if there are tears or rips in the various connective tissues that help make up a well-working joint.

While Computed Tomography (CT) can be used to perform an arthrogram, most commonly, an arthrogram is performed in conjunction with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Both CT and MRI are painless and non-invasive. CT studies involve the use of ionizing radiation, while MRI does not.

When would I get an Arthrogram?

The procedure is most often used to identify abnormalities within the:

  • shoulder
  • elbow
  • wrist
  • hip
  • knee
  • ankle

The procedure is also used to help diagnose persistent, unexplained joint pain or discomfort. In some cases, local anesthetic medications or steroids may be injected into the joint along with the contrast material. These medications may temporarily decrease joint-related pain or inflammation and provide physicians additional information about possible sources of joint pain.

What Will I Experience?

The patient is positioned on the examination table. X-rays of the joint may be taken prior to the procedure to help in guiding the injection and also to provide a baseline exam to be compared later with the arthrogram images.

The DIS radiologist will start the procedure by cleaning the skin over the joint in order to prepare a sterile field for the exam. Then, Lidocaine or a similar medicine is used to numb the skin over the joint. You will experience a slight pin prick and may feel a momentary burning.

Next, a small needle is injected into the joint. You may feel pressure or even pain when the needle is advanced into the joint. Inform the radiologist performing the procedure if you have pain so more local anesthetic can be injected into the area.

You may feel fullness in the joint as it is filled and possibly hear gurgling when the joint is moved. Next, a series of films, using both fluoroscopy and plain x-rays, will be taken. Then, the advanced imaging study (MRI or CT) will be performed.

An arthrogram will usually take 60-90 minutes to complete.