Arthrography is a type of x-ray examination that uses a contrast agent to image an anatomical joint, such as the knee, shoulder, elbow or wrist.  An arthrogram demonstrates the structures of the joint, including cartilage, ligaments and bursa (the fluid-filled joint capsule).  The test may be ordered when a patient suffers an injury to a joint or if the joint feels stiff, painful or "locked." 



During the Examination



You will be asked to lie on your back on the x-ray table, and you will be prepped for the examination.  First, the site being examined will be and scrubbed with an antibacterial soap.  Next, the radiographer will wipe you with sterile cloths and position a sterile towel over the site being examined.  Do not touch the towel.


A radiologist will inject a small amount of local anesthetic (a numbing agent) into the site being examined.  This may sting slightly.  Once the area is numb, the radiologist will insert a needle into the joint and remove some fluid from the bursa.  Next, the radiologist will inject a contrast agent into the site being examined.  While the injections are administered, fluoroscopy will be used to take images. 


Following the injections, you will be positioned on the x-ray table and asked to exercise the site being examined.  This will distribute the contrast agent evenly across the joint. 



Post-examination Information


After the examination is complete, any contrast agent that remains in the joint will be absorbed and excreted by your kidneys.  The amount of contrast is very small, and it has no odor or color.  You will not notice any discoloration of your urine.  In addition, the radiation that you are exposed to during this examination, like the radiation produced during any other x-ray procedure, passes through you immediately.


In most cases magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CAT scan are used in addition to arthrography.