- What is MR arthrography?
- Does the patient have to be prepared for the investigation?
- How is the examination conducted?
- Is it necessary to use a contrast agent?
- What are possible investigation-related complications?
In MR arthrography, contrast agent is injected into the examined joint. This improves the contrast between the joint fluid and the intra-articular structures. The volume of the fluid in the joint is also increased, further revealing minor damage to the intra-articular structures.
MR arthrography is the most sensitive examination for damage of the joint structures (labrum, rotator cuff tendons, cartilage).
No special preparation is required for the MR arthrography and only general MRI examination instructions apply.
MR arthrography is performed in two stages.
The first phase is performed in an ultrasound clinic. Your doctor will place you in the appropriate position on the examination table, clean the area of the intended puncture with a disinfectant and apply sterile cover. Under ultrasound guidance, he will then puncture the examined joint with a thin needle to inject a contrast agent. The pain of the procedure is comparable to that of taking venous blood. The first phase lasts about 5–10 minutes.
In the second stage, imaging is performed in the MR apparatus in the same way as a normal MRI examination. The radiology engineer will place you in the appropriate position on the examination table and install a coil for the part of the body to be examined. You will be provided with earphones for hearing protection as loud noises are generated during the investigation. You will be placed inside the MRI apparatus for the duration of the examination. You will hold a bell in your hand to use it if any problems occur during the procedure to alert the radiological engineer performing the procedure.
It is of particular importance that you remain completely still during the investigation as the movements impair the image quality!
The second phase lasts about 15–30 minutes.
In MR arthrography, a saline diluted (1000 x) gadolinium contrast agent solution is injected into the examined joint.