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What is an arthrogram?

An arthogram, or an arthrography, is the X-ray examination of a joint such as a shoulder, hip or wrist to help identify the source of your pain. Using a special form of X-ray called fluoroscopy, contrast material (dye) containing iodine is injected into the joint to highlight soft tissue structures so they are visible during an X-ray or MRI.

This video demonstrates an arthrogram or scroll for more details below.

We will call you prior to your appointment to discuss specific preparation instructions, risks, medications you may be taking and your past imaging exams.

An MRI arthrogram is when an MRI is performed right after the injection of contrast material into a joint to provide a high-resolution image using a large magnet, radio waves and a computer. It is particularly useful for evaluating tears in the supporting ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other soft tissue.

If you are having an MRI arthrogram please note:

  • Because the MRI is a large magnet, we will ask that you take extra precautions not to wear metal into the scanner room such as jewelry, eye glasses, watches, bobby pins or barrettes.
  • At your appointment you will be asked about metal implants or other internal medical devices. If you have questions or concerns please discuss them with our staff at your appointment. 

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown and the technologist will explain the procedure and answer your questions.

You will lie on an x-ray table and the skin in the targeted area will be cleaned and then numbed with a local anesthetic similar to what a dentist uses and using fluoroscopy (live x-ray) for guidance, a thin needle is used to inject contrast into the area thought to be causing your pain. This could briefly cause you to feel a pressure sensation or experience brief discomfort.

You will then be brought to a room where MRI imaging will be performed. You will not feel anything during this portion of the exam, but you will hear a loud knocking sound. Most centers have headphones you can wear to lessen the noise. All you need to do is relax and lie very still to help us get clear images that will help your physician identify the source of your pain.

You will be given instructions post procedure. You may experience some mild soreness at the injection site. Please call your physician’s office if you have any concerns.

Our radiologist, a medical doctor with advanced training in interpreting medical images, will review the images and provide your doctor a detailed report about your images. This report, along with any other relevant information or tests, should assist your doctor in determining the best treatment plan for you.

Although complications are rare, we will review possible side effects and risks with you prior to your exam so you can ask questions and decide if this exam is right for you.