How is the procedure performed?
This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.
The patient is positioned on the examination table and x-rays are taken of the joint to be compared later with the arthrograms. If recent x-rays are available, the physician may choose to use these for reference.
Next, the skin around the joint is cleansed with antiseptic and a local anesthetic is injected into the area.
Your physician will numb the area with a local anesthetic.
The area where the needle is to be inserted will be sterilized and covered with a surgical drape.
A needle is then inserted into the joint. The radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will use a syringe to drain the joint fluid, which may be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Aspiration is typically performed when an infection is suspected.
The contrast material and sometimes air are injected into the joint space and the needle is removed. Air will not be used if the patient is undergoing MR arthrography. The patient will be asked to move the affected joint to distribute the contrast material throughout the space.
The conventional arthrography exam is usually completed within 30 minutes. Exams involving MRI may take more than one hour.