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.
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
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.