Arthrography is a type of imaging test used to look at a joint, such as the shoulder, knee, or hip. It may be done if standard X-rays do not show the needed details of the joint structure and function.
In arthrography, a long, thin needle is used to put contrast dye right into the joint and a series of X-rays is taken with the joint in various positions. X-rays use small amounts of radiation to get pictures of the inside of the body. Sometimes air is used as the contrast substance when regular contrast can not be used.
An arthrogram may also use fluoroscopy, CT (computerized tomography), or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) instead of X-rays to get better pictures of the joint.
While arthrography is most commonly used to examine the knee and shoulder joints, it may also be used to look at other joints, such as the wrist, ankle, hip, or elbow.
Arthrography may be done on a joint when there has been persistent and unexplained pain, discomfort, loss of motion, and/or changes in the way the joint works. Other reasons to do this test may include:
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend arthrography.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous CT scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your healthcare provider. Risks linked with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray exams and/or treatments over a long period.
If you are allergic or sensitive to medicines, contrast dyes, local anesthesia, iodine, or latex, tell your healthcare provider.
Some potential risks of arthrography include:
Arthrography is not recommended for people with active arthritis or joint infections.
If you are pregnant or think you may be, tell your healthcare provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If you must have an arthrography exam, special precautions will be taken to reduce the radiation exposure to the fetus.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Arthrography may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in the hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.
Generally, arthrography follows this process:
While the arthrography procedure itself causes no pain, having to move or hold the joint still in certain positions might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly if you’ve recently had surgery or a joint injury. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions regarding movement of the joint, pain medicine care of the affected joint, symptoms to watch for, and any activity restrictions.
You may be asked to rest the joint for several hours right after the procedure.
Some mild swelling and fullness may be noted in or around the joint. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you apply ice if swelling happens. If swelling continues or increases after a day or two, contact the healthcare provider.
Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your healthcare provider. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.
After a knee arthrogram, the affected knee may be wrapped with an elastic bandage for several days. You will be shown how to apply the bandage and remove it for bathing and dressing.
You may notice some clicking or cracking noises with movement of the joint for a few days after the procedure. This is normal, and should resolve within a few days.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
You may resume your normal diet unless your healthcare provider tells you differently.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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