What it’s Like to Get an MRI Arthrogram

An arthrogram can give your doctor a lot of information about your joint, especially when it’s done in combination with an MRI. Before your scan, fluid is injected into your joint, providing a clearer picture of what is going on in the problem area. For 22-year-old Matt Peery, the problem was his shoulder. He’d hurt it wrestling with a cousin a few years back. His doctor sent him to RAYUS in Springfield, MA for the injection and MRI.

Because Matt’s shoulder kept popping out of socket, his doctor said his injury was beyond the point of rehabilitation and he may need to take a surgical approach. Though apprehensive about surgery and the arthrogram procedure, Matt’s injured shoulder was getting in the way of his job and he needed answers.

Contrast Joint Injection

Unlike a typical MRI, an MRI arthrogram begins with the injection of fluid called contrast right into the joint – usually a hip, shoulder, wrist, elbow or knee. “We get a lot of additional information about the joint,” explains RAYUS Musculoskeletal Radiologist Dr. Joel Newman. “Especially the lining of the joint, the structures that hold and support it like the labrum in the shoulder and the hip. Those are things we wouldn’t see as well if we didn’t have fluid in the joint ahead of time.” The needle part of the procedure only lasts about 2 minutes, though you can expect to be in the room getting prepped for the injections for about 10 minutes.

During the injection, you can expect some pinching and a little burning. The needles are usually the biggest concern for arthrogram patients, says Dr. Newman. “We like to reassure them that one, it’s very fast, two, we use local anesthesia and three, that it is actually a very thin needle. It doesn’t hurt as much as they would think.” After the contrast is injected, you’re taken to the MRI machine for scans of the joint. In Matt’s case, he’s hoping for answers that will eventually bring him shoulder relief. “I’m just trying to get this done as soon as possible instead of just pushing it off and making it worse.”