Skip to content

Arthritis Health Center

Font Size

Arthrogram (Joint X-Ray)

How It Is Done

An arthrogram is usually done by a doctor who specializes in interpreting X-rays (radiologist).

You will be asked to remove any jewelry or metal objects from the joint area. You will then sit or lie down with your joint under an X-ray viewer (fluoroscope) that is hooked to a video screen that can show X-ray pictures. The skin over your joint is cleaned with a special soap and draped with sterile towels. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and tissues over the joint.

A needle is put into your joint area. Joint fluid may be removed so that more contrast material (such as dye or air) can be put into the joint. A sample of joint fluid may be sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. The fluoroscope shows that the needle is placed correctly in your joint. The dye or air is then put through the needle into your joint. The joint may be injected with both dye and air (double-contrast arthrogram). The needle is then removed.

You may be asked to move your joint around to help the dye or air spread inside your joint. Pictures from the fluoroscope show if the dye has filled your entire joint. Hold as still as possible while the X-rays are being taken unless your doctor tells you to move your joint through its entire range of motion. The X-rays need to be taken quickly, before the dye spreads to other tissues around your joint.

If you are having a CT scan or MRI after an arthrogram, a small amount of a medicine called epinephrine may be mixed with the dye to stop the dye from spreading into other tissues.

An arthrogram usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

After the arthrogram, rest your joint for about 12 hours. Do not do any strenuous activity for 1 to 2 days. Use ice for any swelling and use pain medicine for any pain. If a bandage or wrap is put on your joint following an arthrogram, you will be told how long to use it.

How It Feels

You will feel a prick and sting when the anesthetic is given. You may feel tingling, pressure, pain, or fullness in your joint as the dye is put in.

The X-ray table may feel hard and the room may be cool.

You may have some mild pain, tenderness, and swelling in your joint after the test. Ice packs and nonprescription pain relievers, used as the package directs, may help you feel more comfortable. You may also hear a grating, clicking, or cracking sound when you move your joint. This is normal and goes away in about 24 hours. If you have ongoing pain, tenderness, or swelling of the joint, tell your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

Mature woman exercise at home
Hint: Warming up first is crucial.
feet with gout
Quiz yourself.
 
woman in pain
One idea? Eat fish to curb inflammation.
senior couple walking
Can you keep your RA from progressing?
 
xray of knees with osteoarthritis
Slideshow
close up of man wearing dress shoes
Slideshow
 
feet with gout
Quiz
close up of red shoe in shoebox
Slideshow
 
salad
Video
two male hands
ARTICLE
 
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Article