Meet Ian, Arthrography patient

Approximately 4 million people in the U.S. seek medical care each year for shoulder problems. Ian, like many baseball players, had soreness and swelling in his shoulder. When his doctor ordered an arthrogram, radiologists were able to inject dye directly into the joint to take a closer look. Images showed a tear in his rotator cuff—just what Ian's surgeon needed to set a plan and get him back on the field.

Arthrography is a diagnostic tool performed in conjunction with MRI, CT or X-ray to evaluate joints, including hips, wrists, ankles, shoulders, knees, etc. This is a contrast injection into the joint that enhances the visualization of structures and aids the evaluation of joint abnormalities, such as cartilage tears and other injuries.

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The radiologist will insert a needle into the joint using X-ray guidance and inject a contrast material. If needed for further diagnosis, you will be taken to the CT or MRI machines for more pictures.

The contrast material may consist of both a standard iodine solution, which is detected by X-ray and a solution of gadolinium, which aids in the MRI images. The contrast is then absorbed by the lining of the joint into the bloodstream and excreted by the kidneys within a few hours of injection.

You may resume normal daily activities with the exception of athletic activities, which should be avoided for 24 hours. Athletes should consult their coach or trainer prior to resuming practice. You may experience some discomfort and swelling of the joint for a day or two after the arthrogram. You may treat the pain with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as Advil or Tylenol. Ice packs for the first 24 hours (3-4 times up to 15 minutes per time) may be helpful, followed the next day with heat (4 times a day for 20 minutes each) if necessary.

Minor complications such as discomfort or local bleeding/bruising where the needle is inserted may occur. A few patients may have allergic reaction from the contrast material. Please inform the technologist prior to your exam if you have any known allergy to iodine or X-ray dye.

Infection of the joint is a rare but serious complication of arthrography and requires treatment with antibiotics. If you have symptoms of pain, swelling, red skin or fever three or more days after the arthrogram, please contact the facility to speak to the radiologist or a member of the radiology nursing staff.

Typically your referring physician will schedule an appointment for you. If you have been asked to schedule the appointment yourself, please have your physician's order and any pre-authorization information required by your insurance or health plan provider in hand, and call 704-442-4390.