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What is an arthrogram?

An arthrogram is an x-ray of a joint. Dye is injected to help healthcare providers see your joint clearly. Tell healthcare providers if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. You may also be allergic to the dye.

Why might I need an arthrogram?

Arthrograms are done to help find the cause of joint pain and to see if surgery is needed. After joint surgery, an arthrogram may be done to check how well your joint is healing. If you have a prosthesis, you may need an arthrogram to see if it is loose.

What happens during an arthrogram?

  • You may be given a shot of anesthesia medicine to numb the area around your joint. A long, thin needle will be put into your joint space. Your healthcare provider may use x-rays to guide him when he inserts the needle. Joint fluid may be removed. A small amount of contrast dye is injected into your joint. The dye will help your healthcare provider see that he is in the right area. Once the needle is in the right area of your joint space, more dye will be injected. Medicine to help keep the dye in your joint space without spreading to other tissues may also be given.
  • After the dye is given into your joint space, the needle is removed. You may be asked to move your joint around to help the dye coat your whole joint. X-rays may then be taken. You may also need an MRI or CT. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell healthcare providers if you have any metal in or on your body. You will need to stay very still while the pictures are being taken of your joint.

What happens after an arthrogram?

You will be taken to a room to rest after your procedure. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says you can. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you will be taken back to your room.

What are the risks of an arthrogram?

  • You may have a burning feeling in your skin when the shot of anesthesia medicine is given. During or after your procedure, you may feel weak and faint. The shot may create air bubbles that move into your blood vessels and cause breathing problems. You may have pain, redness, and swelling in the area where your shots were given. Your joint may also become swollen and painful.
  • You may lose feeling in your arm or leg for a short time after the shot is given. Muscles or tendons may be injured, and you may bleed. You may also get a skin or joint infection after your procedure. You may be at an increased risk for blood clots. The contrast dye may cause an allergic reaction, seizures, or kidney damage. Without this procedure, your joint problem or pain may worsen.

How do I care for myself at home after an arthrogram?

Rest your joint and use ice to decrease pain and swelling. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new numbness in the arm or leg where you had your arthrogram.
  • You have a new rash.
  • You feel weak or dizzy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have pain, redness, or swelling in the area where your injection was given.
  • You have a fever or your joint becomes swollen, warm, or more painful.
  • You have skin changes such as red or dark spots, or hardened, tight skin.
  • Your joints feel stiff, or you have trouble moving your limbs.
  • Your skin becomes swollen, itchy, or feels like it is burning.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.