What is MRI Arthrography?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) arthrogram is an MRI of the inside of a joint (e.g. shoulder, knee, wrist, ankle) after a contrast medium (sometimes referred to as a contrast agent or “dye”) is injected directly into the joint.  An arthrogram provides a clear image of the soft tissue in the joint (e.g. ligaments and cartilage) so that a more accurate diagnosis about an injury or cause of a symptom, such as joint pain or swelling, can be made.

A radiologist injects the contrast medium into the joint using fluoroscopy (a special type of X-ray) to help guide the injection needle into the correct position.

Once the injection is finished, images of the joint are taken using MRI. While a plain MRI can provide some information about the soft tissue structures, an arthrogram can sometimes provide much more detailed information about what is wrong within the joint.

Your doctor will usually send you for an arthrogram as part of an MRI to look at the soft tissue structures inside the joint.  If the radiologist carrying out the test feels that using MRI or CT without contrast injection will provide sufficient information, then an arthrogram might not be necessary.