An arthrogram uses imaging equipment to inspect joints such as the elbow, wrist, shoulder, hip, knee, etc. It is essentially an image detailing the inside section of a joint. An arthrogram is a two-step process, in which a patient receives a contrast injection into the joint and then either a CT Scan or MRI afterwards.
Some of the primary reasons that an arthrogram is ordered by a physician include:
- Diagnose unexplained joint pain
- Locate tears, degeneration or disease in either the tendon, ligament or cartilage
- Find cysts or other growths in a joint
- Determine if treatment is necessary, such as arthroscopy, joint replacement or other surgery
Part One: Fluoroscopy
The first part of an arthrogram involves an injection which usually lasts about 30 minutes. During the process of fluoroscopy, a unique, specialized type of x-ray device that gets an image of a specific area in real time and displays it via video monitor is utilized. A tiny needle is placed in the joint and contrast is then injected into said joint. The fluoroscopy machine is then able to take many different images. Certain pain medications, including steroids or other anesthetics, may be ordered during this injection dependent on the healthcare provider.
Part Two: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In the majority of cases, an MRI, and sometimes a CT scan as well, is performed on the joint after the injection phase is complete. The CT scan is primarily used for patients who cannot receive an MRI for safety reasons so that the intra-articular structures can be analyzed thoroughly. The MRI usually takes approximately 30 minutes and utilizes a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create very detailed images.
Primary Differences Between an MRI and Arthrogram
There are a few reasons why the extra injection component of an arthrogram may be performed on a patient as compared to solely an MRI:
- An arthrogram is often used in order to continue to evaluate a potential abnormality that may have been detected with an MRI.
- An arthrogram can potentially help to better define issues post surgery
- Smaller structures can he highlighted more extensively via the contrast material that is injected into the joint
- It can help to evaluate if a certain injury expands outside of a single joint more feasibly than an MRI is sometimes capable of doing
We currently offer this service at our Woodlands and Clear Lake locations. For more information on arthrograms, contact Alliance MRI today.