An arthrogram is a procedure that is performed on the joints to check for the integrity of the capsules that surround the joints. These capsules that surround the joints contain a fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid is a lubricant that aids in the movement of the joints against each other. Tears can sometimes happen in these joints and an arthrogram is used to check for any of these tears in the shoulder joint. The procedure is extremely painful and because of this reason, it has to be done under a local anesthetic. This will not totally eliminate the pain at the moment or later but will greatly reduce some of the discomfort.
The arthrogram is quite similar in nature to an angiogram, a procedure that is performed to check for the circulation of blood to the muscles of the heart. In this case, however, the procedure involves an injection into the bones. The procedure involves getting injected with a local anesthetic in the area of the operation. After the anesthetic takes effect, a larger needle is inserted right into the joint that is affected. An iodine based contrast dye is then injected into the joint. The next step is to rapidly take a series of images of the joint. There are number of methods that can be done for this task. X-rays are the general method of imaging. CT scans and MRI scans are the newer methods of imaging. A CT scan and fluoroscopy will give one a three dimensional view of the affected joint and how the contrasting fluid moves through the joint. An MRI scan, on the other hand, will give one a slice by slice view of the joint.
This test is usually conducted to check for some kind of puncture that has happened to the capsule that surrounds the joint. Note that this is not a test that is conducted to check for arthritis. Arthritis is a completely different problem that destroys the ligaments that cushion the joint itself. This problem is diagnosed with simple X-rays that are used to look at the shape of the joint and judge the level of shearing off of the joint. Most problems of the capsules around the joint can be solved by some rest and recuperation. Arthritis cannot be cured but only managed by continuous immunosuppressant medication or corticosteroids to stop the immune system from destroying the ligaments.