An arthrogram test is a diagnostic test undertaken to study troubled joints. It involves obtaining x-ray images of joints, but while a regular x-ray takes pictures of the bone, and provides information on it, an arthrogram x-ray proves to be slightly more informative. This type of x-ray uses a technique known as fluoroscopy to capture an image of the affected joint.
This technique involves the injection of a contrast material (usually a dye) into the joint. The contrast material is harmless and causes no side effects or complications. The contrast material allows you to see the joint bone as well as the surface and state of tissues, ligaments, cartilage and muscles that line the joint. The test can be used to study the joints in your hip, knees, ankle, shoulder, elbow, writs and jaw. Depending on your condition, you may have to undergo a hip arthrogram, shoulder arthrogram wrist arthogram, and so on. This method doesn't work on the spine though. For problems in the spine, however, doctors recommend a more comprehensive myelogram test.
An arthrogram helps zero in on the cause of persistent joint pain. This is a widely used test because of its accuracy and efficiency. Using an arthrogram, doctors can spot tears, swelling, cyst formation, abnormal growths, degeneration, and more. It allows doctors to diagnose the condition correctly and set a course for treatment.
During an arthrogram procedure, the skin around the joints will be cleaned using an antiseptic solution before it is administered local anaesthesia. First the joint is drained of all joint fluid; this fluid may be sent to the lab for further testing. Once the joint is cleared the contrast material in injected in. After allowing the material to spread evenly and thoroughly the x-ray images are obtained. The entire test takes about 30-45 minutes. Most arthrogram procedures are followed by a magnetic resonance arthography procedure (an arthogram MRI).
Depending on the condition of the joint surgery many or may not be recommended. If the need for surgery is established, an orthopaedic surgeon will perform an arthoscopy. This is a non-invasive procedure where in the surgeon inserts a small device called an arthroscope into the body in order to see and operate inside the joint. This small pen like device is equipped with a small video camera and a guiding light. The procedure is faster, more efficient and causes the patient lesser discomfort. It also ensures limited scarring and quicker recovery.