An arthrogram is an injection of contrast dye or a radio-active tracer into a joint to allow better visualisation of internal joint structures during an x-ray, CT, MRI or Nuclear Medicine examination.

This procedure is available at the following Dr Jones & Partners locations:

Procedure

Arthrograms involve two steps; the injection process followed by diagnostic imaging of the joint. The joint may be injected using x-ray or ultrasound guidance while lying down. The skin will be cleaned with antiseptic before the injection to prevent infection. The radiologist inserts a fine needle into the joint using an aseptic technique (strict infection control practices). The x-ray or ultrasound guides the placement of the needle safely and accurately into the correct position.

Usually, a small amount of x-ray contrast is injected into the joint to confirm the needle is in the correct location.

For a CT arthrogram, a larger volume of x-ray contrast is injected, and then you will be transferred to the CT machine for diagnostic imaging.

For Nuclear Medicine studies, a radio-tracer is injected after the x-ray contrast. You are then transferred to the Nuclear Medicine department for diagnostic imaging of the tracer.

For an MRI arthrogram, MR contrast (Gadolinium) is injected to distend (inflate) the joint. You are then moved to an MRI machine for your diagnostic scan.

You may experience a feeling of fullness and /or tightness as the joint is distended with fluid, but the procedure is usually well tolerated. The tightness will lessen in coming days as the dye absorbs into surrounding tissues.

Risks / Side Effects

Arthrogram injections are generally very safe.

Potential risks include bruising, and infection in the soft tissues or joint, which is uncommon.

If x-ray contrast is administered, there is a small risk of an allergic reaction. A mild allergic reaction occurs in 1/1000 injections and includes a rash, hives or sneezing. More severe reactions such as difficulty breathing are less common. Severe life-threatening reactions are extremely rare (1 in 170 000).

Before your Scan

No specific preparation is required. You can eat and drink before and after the procedure. If you are on any regular medication or have diabetes and are on insulin, take your usual medication and diet.

Please tell us if you are on medication to thin your blood (e.g. Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel), have an iodine allergy, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Duration

30 minutes.

Other Information

Any discomfort in the joint should settle within 24 hours as the contrast is absorbed.
Do not do any strenuous activity for 48 hours after an Arthrogram.

Occasionally, there may be soreness or bruising at the site of the injection. If required, a simple analgesic such as paracetamol (Panadol) should provide some relief. An ice pack may also provide some relief. 

Infection is uncommon, but it is a serious side effect. If you notice any fever or redness, swelling, or increased pain at the injection site after the first two days, notify your referring doctor or immediately call the clinic where the injection was performed.

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