Arthrography: Definition, Purpose, Preparation, and Procedure
What is an arthrography?
Arthrography, or an arthrogram, is a special kind of X-ray. It uses air or a contrast dye or sometimes both along with a special x-ray to give your doctor a more detailed picture of the soft tissues of your joint. These tissues include muscles and cartilage, tendons and ligaments. These tissues can't be seen on plain X-rays.
There are two types of arthrography:
The Purpose of Arthrography
The reason your doctor might recommend an arthrography is:
- To find out what is causing unexplained and chronic problems in your joints such as swelling, pain or unusual movement.
- To look for signs of tears, degeneration, or disease inside the joint or in the cartilage or ligaments.
- To look for disturbances in the way the bones meet and join each other
- To look for abnormal cysts or tumors
- To guide needle placement when fluid is taken from the joint for analysis
An arthrogram can be completed on several joints such as the jaw, wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee or hip. Sometimes an MRI or a CT scan is used with arthrography to give the doctor more information about what is going on in a joint.
If your doctor recommends arthrography, be sure to inform him as well as the technician performing the procedure if you:
- Have any drug allergies, including allergies to anesthetics
- Have an allergy to iodine. Iodine may be used in the contrast material.
- Have an allergy to shellfish or bee stings
- Might be or are pregnant
- Have rheumatoid arthritis
- Have asthma
- Are taking blood thinners or have a bleeding problem
- Have an infection in your joint or near it. The contrast material could make the infection worse.
Preparation and Procedure
Before the arthrogram begins, you will be asked to remove any metal objects or jewelry from around the joint being studied. You will then lie or sit down with your joint positioned under a special X-ray machine called a fluoroscope, which is connected to a monitor. The area will be thoroughly cleaned and covered, and you will be injected with a local anesthetic to help make you comfortable during the procedure.
After the Procedure
Following arthrography, you will need to rest the joint for at least 12 hours. Avoid exertion for one or two days. Using ice packs can help keep any swelling that may occur to a minimum. Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or aspirin are usually effective for pain management after arthrography.