Some of the areas that may be scanned using this diagnostic test are your shoulder, knee, wrist, and ankle.
Before the scan, you will be injected with a contrast dye to make the ligaments and cartilage around your joint clearer in the images. Once the dye is injected, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is performed to take images of your joint so your doctor can clearly see what may be causing your symptoms.
Sometimes the arthrogram procedure includes the injection of local anesthetic medications or steroids to temporarily decrease any pain in the joint.
Please notify the technologist if you are pregnant.
Frequently asked questions
Are there any dietary restrictions?
Unless a sedative will be administered for the procedure, there are no restrictions on food or fluid intake.
Who performs an MRI arthrogram?
A radiologist performs the MRI arthrogram in the diagnostic imaging department of the hospital. Usually a nurse or radiographer is present to assist the radiologist throughout the procedure in taking pictures of the affected joint.
What do I need to tell the radiologist?
Although there is very little risk involved in an MRI arthrogram, it is necessary to inform your physician of a few things before proceeding with the exam:
- Tell your doctor about any allergies you have and any medications you are taking at the time of the scan.
- If you have experienced any recent illnesses, medical conditions, or serious health problems, you should tell your doctor about these as well.
- The radiologist should know if you have any medical or electronic devices in your body. These can cause interference during the scan, which results in less clear images.
- You should inform your physician if you have any metal objects in your body such as shrapnel, braces, tooth fillings, bullets, or other pieces of metal.
- You should also inform your doctor if you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety in case you need to receive a sedative for your examination.
What should I wear for an MRI arthrogram?
You will want to wear loose-fitting clothes to your arthrogram scan, with easy access to the joint being scanned. Depending on the area being scanned, your doctor may ask that you remove some or all of your clothes in order to make the area more accessible or to remove any metal embellishments on your clothing that could interfere with the x-ray images. A gown will be provided to you if necessary.
How is the dye administered?
The contrast dye used in an MRI arthrogram is injected into the joint being scanned. This dye will allow for the surrounding tissue of the joint to be shown clearly in the images created from the scan.
How do I prepare for an arthrogram?
Before undergoing an arthrogram, you should have your joint examined by your doctor and at least one other scan performed. Typically, a plain X-ray of the joint is performed and sometimes an ultrasound, CT scan or plain MRI scan. If your doctor then wants to see more of the inside of the joint and the surrounding tissues, you may need an MRI arthrogram to assess your symptoms. You should bring all of these previous scan images to your arthrogram appointment for your doctor and radiologist to use in assessing your joint.
What happens during an arthrogram?
- During your arthrogram, you will lie on your back.
- The skin over the joint to be scanned will be sterilized with antiseptic solution.
- Before the contrast dye is administered, your doctor may inject a local anesthetic to numb the area.
- To inject the contrast dye into your joint, your physician will use an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI or CT for guidance to ensure the dye is being injected into the right location.
- Once the needle is placed in the right location, the contrast dye will be injected into the joint. This should not be painful, but you may experience a feeling of fullness in your joint after the dye is injected.
- Following the dye injection, your physician will inject a very dilute mixture of MRI contrast (gadolinium chelates) and sterile saline (mildly salty water) to prepare your joint for the MRI scan.
- Following the injections, you will be moved to the room where the MRI scan will be performed.
Is the scan different for children?
Parents should discuss all preparation and procedure requirements for their children with the physician. It is possible that your child may need to be sedated throughout the procedure to restrict movement while the images are taken. Teens and young adults are not typically sedated for an MRI arthrogram.
How long is the MRI arthrogram scan?
The amount of time needed for the arthrogram is usually about 15 minutes. This is followed by a short waiting period before the MRI scan, which takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on the number of scans needed. Total time in the radiology department is approximately two hours from arrival.
What happens after the procedure?
You may experience some increase in soreness in the scanned joint for 24 to 48 hours following the procedure. After this time, your joint will return to its previous feeling before the examination. You should have someone drive you home after the procedure.