What is an MRI Arthrogram? Preparation and Expectations

What is an Arthrogram MRI?

An arthrogram also referred to as arthrography, uses imaging technology to view a joint more closely to determine if there is any injury in a particular area.This is generally recommended by your health care provider if a physical or medical test such as an x-ray does not show the root cause of the pain. Some other reasons why an MRI arthrogram may be recommended include discomfort, range of motion issues with a joint, or unexplained pain. During this procedure, the medical provider is looking to:

  • Detect growths or synovial cysts in the joint
  • Find tears, degeneration, or disease in the cartilage, ligament, or tendon
  • Determine the need for treatment, and ways to alleviate the pain

Many people misinterpret an MRI with an arthrogram. If you are curious to learn more, we suggest reading the following article that talks about this more in detail.

Arthrogram VS. MRI: What are the Key Differences?

What to Expect When Doing an MRI Arthrogram

The MRI arthrogram procedure is done in two steps. First, the patient is injected with a special dye, called contrast, in the affected joint. The dye is absorbed into the joint which allows the image to be clearer for examination. Next, the area affected will be examined using imaging equipment to take a closer look. The arthrography using the fluoroscopy is fairly quick, taking about 30 minutes. A CT Scan or MRI can sometimes take upwards of 2 hours.

How to Prepare for an MRI Arthrogram?

Before the MRI Arthrogram

It is crucial to inform your healthcare provider with accurate information of medical history, such as allergies or any reactions to certain medications. In addition, if you are pregnant or have reason to believe you might be pregnant, this should be shared with your medical provider as well.

Preparation for the MRI Arthrogram will vary depending on your provider, but they are similar to the below:

  • Patients should arrive a few minutes early
  • Patients can have breakfast before the screening
  • You will be given a contrast screening to fill out

After the MRI Arthrogram

  • It is recommended to rest the joint area for at least 24 hours after the test
  • In certain situations, you may need to do extra screening (ex. CT or MRI)
  • Rest area in ice if you are experiencing swelling or tenderness
  • You may take a pain reliever

Common areas where an MRI arthrogram is necessary

  • arthrogram MRI for shoulder
  • arthrogram MRI ankle
  • arthrogram MRI hip
  • arthrogram MRI elbow
  • arthrogram MRI of wrist

Common FAQ about MRI Arthrogram

How long does an Arthrogram MRI take?

Generally, an MRI Arthrogram takes about 30 minutes to an 2 hours.

Are MRI Arthrograms painful?

An arthrogram does not cause any pain, but patients may feel soreness in the joint area from the injection of the contrast. This typically goes away within a day.

Arthrogram MRI Side Effects

  • Soreness from contrast dye injection (generally goes away within a day)
  • Allergic reaction from the contrast dye (which is rare)

Can you drive after an MRI Arthrogram

You may drive after the procedure, but you might want to arrange for someone to help you get home. If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.