Arthrography - What You Need to Know

An imaging technique that involves using contrast dye

knee arthritis
Arthritis can cause excruciating knee pain. melodija (iStock)

What Is Arthrography?

Arthrography is an imaging technique that involves injecting a contrast agent into a joint, where the ends of two bones meet, prior to taking x-rays. The iodine-based contrast is injected into the joint cavity alone or combined with air so that structures within the joint can be assessed. When iodine is injected into the soft tissues around a joint, it appears bright white on the arthrogram (the images produced by arthrography), allowing the doctor who reads the arthrogram to view the anatomy of the joint and assess function.

When Is Arthrography Preferred Over X-ray?

Conventional arthrography is helpful for detecting:

Besides conventional arthrography, there is magnetic resonance arthrography, where the joint is distended with contrast agent that contains gadolinium. This technique improves diagnostic accuracy of certain conditions, such as glenoid (shoulder) or acetabular (hip) labral tears and rotator cuff tears.

Where Is Arthrography Performed?

Arthrography can be performed wherever flouroscopy is available. One caveat to remember: as with any injection, there is a possibility of introducing infection in to the joint or of having a reaction to the contrast agent.


Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. John Klippel, MD. 13th edition. Published by Arthritis Foundation.

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