Shoulder Arthrogram Overview

A shoulder Arthrogram is a common procedure ordered by your doctor to help find out why your having shoulder pain.  This is a two part test where you have the shoulder injection of contrast followed by an MRI or less commonly CT.

Indications for shoulder arthrogram

A shoulder arthrogram is usually done for pain or other symptoms arising from the shoulder.  Often tears of the rotator cuff or labrum are suspected.

MRI arthrogram shoulder

An MRI is most commonly done after the arthrogram.  The contrast that is injected into your shoulder during the arthrogram allows the radiologist to get a better look at the shoulder anatomy and any abnormalities.

CT arthrogram shoulder

CT is done less commonly after the arthrogram.  Some patients can not tolerate MRI because they have incompatible devices like pacemakers.  Patients who have had shoulder replacements often get CT instead of MRI.

Benefit of an MRI shoulder arthrogram over regular MRI 

The contrast dye that is injected into your shoulder lets the radiologist make a more accurate diagnosis then if you were to have the MRI without the injection.  This is a particularly helpful test for looking at the rotator cuff and labrum and any tears.

Does a shoulder arthrogram hurt?

Your shoulder should be properly anesthetized before the procedure starts.  You should feel pressure but not pain during the procure.  If you have discomfort, you can let the radiologist know and he will administer more anesthetic.

How long does an arthrogram of shoulder take?

The arthrogram of the shoulder should take under 30 minutes to perform.

What happens right before a shoulder arthrogram is done?

The procedure will be explained by the radiologist and he will answer any questions you may have. Risks such as allergic reaction, infection, bleeding, pain and some others will be outlined.  This is a very safe procedure however all procedures carry risks.  You will sign a consent form which tells the radiologist that you agree to proceed.

Shoulder arthrogram technique

You will be placed on your back on the fluoroscopy table.  Fluoroscopy is a continuous X-ray machine which allows the radiologist to guide the needle into the shoulder joint.

First your skin will be cleaned and a drape placed.  Next the radiologist will anesthetize your skin and deeper tissues around the shoulder so that you do not feel pain during the procedure.

The radiologist will then advance a needle into your shoulder jusing guidance from the X-ray or fluoroscopy.  You should feel pressure but not pain,  The radiologist can give you more anesthetic if you need it.

Once the radiologist is in the joint, he will inject the contrast dye.  This may make your shoulder feel full.  He will inject about 13-15 cc.  The hard part is over!  Now that the dye is in your shoulder, you can have the MRI and hopefully figure out why your having all that pain in your shoulder.

Shoulder arthrogram recovery

Your shoulder may be sore for a day after the procedure.  You should take it easy with your shoulder the day of the procedure.

Shoulder arthrogram complications

Post procedure complications like bleeding and infection are rare.

When will the results of the shoulder arthrogram be available?

The radiology report will typically be available either the same or next day.  You can discuss the results with your doctor and see what the next step will be.

Shoulder arthrogram: summary

A shoulder arthrogram is an injection of contrast into your shoulder utilizing fluoroscopy or continuous X-ray.  The procedure is often followed by a CT or MRI.  The contrast that is injected into your joint lets the radiologist better see abnormalities like tears.


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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