Diagnostic Imaging Services is a freestanding independent outpatient imaging provider that performs a specialty procedure called an arthrogram.
An arthrogram uses imaging equipment to evaluate a joint like the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee or ankle. It is a two-step procedure consisting of a contrast injection into the joint, followed by an MRI or CT scan of the joint.
An arthrogram is often recommended by a physician in order to best:
- Find tears, degeneration or disease in the cartilage, ligament or tendon
- Detect growths or synovial cysts in the joint
- Diagnose unexplained joint pain
- Determine the need for treatment, including arthroscopy, surgery or joint replacement
Step one: the injection
The first part of an arthrogram uses fluoroscopy – a specialized type of x-ray equipment that images the area in real time, and displays it on a video monitor. A small needle will be placed in the joint and contrast material (i.e. x-ray dye) will be injected into the joint space. Several x-ray images will be taken using the fluoroscopy machine. Pain medications like anesthetic and/or steroids may also be injected, depending on what was ordered by the healthcare provider. The injection portion typically takes about 30 minutes.
Step two: the scan
In most cases, an MRI (or occasionally a CT scan) of the joint will be performed after the injection portion. CT can be used to better evaluate the intra-articular structures in patients who cannot have an MRI for safety reasons. The MRI usually takes another 30-45 minutes.
Some people may wonder why not have just the scan and skip the injection. There are a number of reasons to do both.
An MRI arthrogram can be used to further evaluate an abnormality identified on a routine MRI. MRI arthrogram can better define some issues following surgery than a routine MRI. Distention of the joint from the injected contrast material can better highlight some small structures that are close together on a routine MRI. Determining if an injury extends outside the joint can be easier with MRI arthrogram in some cases.
Diagnostic Imaging Services performs arthrograms at our Metairie, Marrero and Slidell facilities. Our services for this specialty procedure are far below area hospitals and hospital-owned affiliates, and we have one price for everything, whereas hospitals will often have separate charges for the scan and the radiology service, perhaps even the use of the hospital facility.
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