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Commonly Asked Questions About Arthrograms

What is an arthrogram?
An arthrogram is a study that involves an injection of contrast medium into an affected joint, followed by a series of images. This test allows the physician to see the anatomy and function of the joint. This is usually preformed and interpreted by a radiologist. The radiologist will prepare a diagnostic report to share with your referring physician. Your physician will consider this information in the context of your care.

Why do I need an arthrogram?
An arthrogram is useful because it allows your physician to see the soft tissues in your joint, not only bone, as in a regular x-ray.

An arthrogram can be used:

  • To find problems in the joint capsule, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
  • To find abnormal growths or cysts.
  • To check for needle placement before a pain relieving injection, such as a epidural-type steroid injection or before a joint fluid analysis.
  • For therapeutic or diagnostic indications.

What joints can be seen in this test?
Hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or jaw

Before the procedure:

  • Inform your physician if:
  • You are pregnant or currently breastfeeding.
  • You have any allergies or sensitivities, especially to contrast medium, iodine, shellfish, or latex.
  • You are taking any anti-coagulants (blood thinners) including aspirin.
  • You have had any surgeries to this joint.
  • Do not wear any jewelry to your exam.
  • You will be asked to change out of your clothes and into a gown.

During the procedure:

  • Remove any objects that may interfere with the exam: clothing, jewelry, or other. You will be given a gown to wear.
  • You will be positioned on the examination table in the procedure room.
  • X-rays of the joint may be taken before the injection of the contrast medium for comparison after injection.
  • The skin around the joint will be prepared with an antiseptic solution.
  • The area around the joint will be numbed with a local anesthetic.
  • If fluid is present in the joint, this fluid will be removed.
  • Contrast medium will be injected into the joint.
  • After injection, you may be asked to move the joint so the contrast medium can be distributed evenly throughout the joint.
  • You may be asked to exercise the joint.
  • Once the contrast medium has been distributed through the joint, multiple x-rays will be made with the joint in various positions.
  • Length of procedure: 30 to 60 minutes.

After the procedure:

  • Rest the joint for 12 hours.
  • No strenuous activities for 1-2 days.
  • Ice for swelling.
  • Pain medications, if needed.

Call your physician if:

  • You have pain or swelling that does not go away within 2-3 days following your test.
  • You begin to run a fever after the procedure.
  • You develop an infection.



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