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Arthrogram (Joint X-Ray)

Risks

You can have a few problems from an arthrogram, such as:

  • Joint pain for more than 1 or 2 days.
  • An allergic reaction to the dye.
  • Damage to the structures inside your joint or bleeding in the joint. But this is very rare because the needle that is used is small.
  • Infection in the joint.

There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.

Results

An arthrogram is a test using X-rays to obtain a series of pictures of a joint camera.gif after a contrast material (such as a dye, water, air, or a combination of these) has been injected into the joint. The radiologist may discuss the initial results with you after he or she reviews all the pictures. A detailed report will be available to your doctor in a few days.

Arthrogram
Normal:

The joint capsule, the sac containing joint fluid, is normal. The cartilage and other structures of the joint are normal.

Abnormal:

The cartilage is worn down (degeneration) or there is a tear in the cartilage cushion of the joint.

There is a tear in the ligaments or tendons of the joint. The tear may be partial or complete. If a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder is present, the dye leaks from the tear.

The joint capsule is enlarged or has ruptured. A joint cyst is present.

Abnormal material is present in the joint. This could be a tumor, extra growth of joint tissues, or pieces of bone or cartilage.

After your doctor has seen the condition of your joint area, further treatment with medicine, physical therapy, or surgery may be recommended.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • If you can't hold still during the test. The pictures may not be clear.
  • If there is a large amount of fluid in your joint. This may affect the spread of the dye and the pictures.

What To Think About

  • Magnetic resonance image (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) give different information about a joint. These tests may be used with an arthrogram or when an arthrogram does not give a clear picture. Also, an MRI or arthroscopy may be used before or in addition to an arthrogram to check your joint problem.
  • An arthrogram may be done if other tests, such as MRI, are not available. It also may be done to help your doctor decide whether arthroscopic surgery is needed.
  • An arthrogram is usually not done during pregnancy.

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.

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