An arthrogram is a test using
X-rays to obtain a series of pictures of a
joint after a
contrast material (such as a dye, water, air, or a
combination of these) has been injected into the joint. This allows your doctor
to see the soft tissue structures of your joint, such as
cartilage, and your joint capsule. These structures
are not seen on a plain X-ray without contrast material. A special type of
fluoroscopy, is used to take pictures of the
An arthrogram is used to check a joint to find out what is
causing your symptoms or problem with your joint. An arthrogram may be more
useful than a regular X-ray because it shows the surface of soft tissues lining
the joint as well as the joint bones. A regular X-ray only shows the bones of
the joint. This test can be done on your hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow,
wrist, or jaw (temporomandibular joint).
Other tests, such as
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and
computed tomography (CT), give different information
about a joint. They may be used with an arthrogram or when an arthrogram does
not give a clear picture of the joint.
Why It Is Done
An arthrogram is used to find the
cause of ongoing, unexplained joint pain, swelling, or abnormal movement of
your joint. It may be done alone, before, or as part of other tests, such as
MRI, CT, or
An arthrogram is used to:
- Find problems in your joint capsule, ligaments,
cartilage (including tears, degeneration, or disease), and the bones in the
joint. In your shoulder, it may be used to help find
problems such as rotator cuff tears.
- Find abnormal growths or
- Confirm that a needle has been
placed correctly in your joint before joint fluid analysis, a test in which a
sample of joint fluid is removed with a thin needle.
- Check needle
placement before a painkilling injection, such as a
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor before your
arthrogram if you:
- Are or might be pregnant.
allergic to any type of contrast material.
- Are allergic to iodine.
The dye used for an arthrogram may contain iodine.
- Are allergic to
any medicines, including anesthetics.
- Have ever had a serious
allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) from any substance, such
as a bee sting or eating shellfish.
- Have bleeding problems or are
taking blood-thinning medicines.
arthritis that is bothering you at the time of your
- Have a known infection in or around your joint. The dye may
make your infection worse.
diabetes or take metformin (Glucophage) for your
You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the
test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help
you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).