What Is an Arthrogram MRI?

Joints are essential parts of your body that give you freedom of movement, but unfortunately, they can go wrong in many ways. An arthrogram MRI allows radiologists to pinpoint issues in your joints that standard imaging may miss. Arthrogram, also called arthrography, is a series of images taken using an X-ray, MRI, CAT scan or fluoroscopy.

Before the arthrogram MRI procedure, your joint is injected with a contrast dye, usually iodine. Using fluoroscopy, the radiologist guides the placement of the injection into the joint. The contrast dye coats the inner lining of the joint structures which makes it appear white on the arthrogram and helps highlight what’s gone wrong in your joint. Using the images, your physician can assess the function of the joint, make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.

Uses for an Arthrogram MRI

arthrograms for joints

Physicians generally recommend MRI arthrograms to evaluate the function of your joints and determine if there is a need for treatment, like surgery or joint replacement. Arthrograms provide invaluable diagnostic information and are generally recommended if there are any joint problems, such as:

  • Unexplained joint pain
  • Something feels off about your joint
  • Difficulty moving your joint
  • Abnormalities in and around the joints, ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and tendons
    Arthrograms can also be used to ensure treatment is working, such as checking on a joint replacement. This type of imaging is invaluable in assessing and decreasing joint pain.

The most common locations to get this procedure are on your: wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee, hip.

Potential Risks Associated With an Arthrogram MRI

There are a few potential risks associated with arthrograms. Most physicians will not recommend this test if you have a joint infection or an arthritis flare up. Also, the procedure is not recommended for women who believe they may be pregnant. Some risks for arthrograms include:

  • Allergic reaction to contrast dye
  • Infection or bleeding at the dye’s injection site
  • Radiation from the use of the X-ray, fluoroscopy and CAT scan

If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor or the radiologist to determine if this test is safe for you. You will also want to speak to the technician if you struggle with claustrophobia as the arthrogram may use an MRI or CAT scan.

What to Expect During an Arthrogram MRI

MRI scansWhen you arrive, you will be asked to remove all of your jewelry and any metallic objects. You may also be asked to wear medical scrubs (top and pants) or a hospital gown, or at least remove all clothing from around the joint being examined. You will then lay on a table in the examination room.

After that, what you can expect varies, but the following may occur:

  • X-rays may be taken before the dye is injected to compare with the arthrogram’s results.
  • Your body will be covered around your joint.
  • The skin above the joint will be cleaned and numbed with a small needle.
  • If needed, a longer needle will remove fluid from around the joint.
  • Using fluoroscopy or ultrasound to guide the needle, contrast dye is injected into your joint.
  • You may be asked to move your joint to help the dye spread out.
  • Images are taken of your joint from different positions with X-ray, MRI, CAT scan or fluoroscopy.

Depending on the type of imaging used, arthrography can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

Find a Location Near You

Envision Radiology provides convenient locations in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana where you can receive premier imaging services, including MRI arthrograms at many of our offices.  To see if this service is provided at a location near you, select one of the regional imaging centers below: