What is an Arthrogram?

An arthrogram is an X-ray image or picture of the inside of a joint (e.g. shoulder, knee, wrist, ankle) after a contrast medium (sometimes referred to as a contrast agent or “dye”) is injected into the joint. An arthrogram provides a clear image of the soft tissue in the joint (e.g. ligaments and cartilage) so that a more accurate diagnosis about an injury or cause of a symptom, such as joint pain or swelling, can be made.

A radiologist (specialist doctor) injects the contrast medium into the joint using fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray), computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound to help guide the injection needle into the correct position.

Once the injection is finished, images of the joint are taken using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CT. While a plain MRI or CT can provide some information of the soft tissue structures, an arthrogram can sometimes provide much more detailed information about what is wrong within the joint.

How do I prepare for an arthrogram?

No specific preparation is usually required.

If you have already had a plain X-ray, ultrasound, CT or MRI of the joint to assess any pain or other symptom you may be experiencing, you will need to bring these scans to your arthrogram appointment.

It may be best to wear comfortable clothing with easy access to the joint being examined.

How long does an arthrogram take?

The injection of contrast medium usually takes about 15 minutes. You may then have to wait a short time before having the additional imaging of your joint. An MRI scan may take 30–45 minutes and a CT scan may take 15 minutes, depending on the joint and the number of scans that have to be done. You should allow approximately 2 hours from arrival at the radiology department.