Information on Arthrogram Test Complications

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 17, 2012

An arthrogram is a medical procedure used to examine the structure of a joint. A patient may arrive with an injury which has been caused by a known factor or by some unknown factor. The extent of the injury will not be visible from the surface. The only likely surface clues will be in the form of injury marks or inflammation. The arthrogram is an imaging based test. A contrast material is used for this test. Contrast materials help to highlight certain parts of the body that are invisible under normal imaging scans. When the contrast material is injected, it fills the voids in the joint. The contrast material thus covers the entire area of the joint. All the physical structures in the joint then become visible when the subsequent scans are conducted because they appear in contrast to the contrast material. An arthrogram typically employs an x-ray machine as its scanning device. An x-ray machine can give a two dimensional image of the joint and any misalignment, crack, break or tear of joint ligaments becomes easily visible during this scan. In some injuries a part of the normal tissue or bone may obscure the visibility of the damaged part of the joint. For this reason, a CT or MRI scan may be preferred as they are capable of producing three dimensional images of the joint by performing a series of continuous scans deeper and deeper into the joint. These continuous scans are known as slices.

An arthrogram procedure may be slightly painful to the patient. This pain occurs when the contrast material is being injected into the joint as the injection itself can be quite painful. Apart from this, the scan is relatively pain free. However, if an injured joint needs to be moved in order to scan it from a different angle and scan it in a different state, this can be quite uncomfortable for an injured patient.

Arthrogram complications are known to be minimal but nevertheless present. MRI scanning cannot be used on a patient with a metallic plate installed in the body as this will be attracted by the magnetic current. Some patients are allergic to contrast material and must not be exposed to the material at all. Finally, for CT and MRI scans, a gadolinium contrast is used. This substance causes serious health complications for patients suffering from kidney disease. Other than this case, the arthrogram is risk free.

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