Children's Hospital Colorado

Arthrogram and MRI at Children's Hospital Colorado

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we treat the big things, the small things and everything in between.



If your child has an injured joint, we’re here to help. Our team uses diagnostic tests like arthrograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the damage so we can start treatment.

What is a pediatric arthrogram?

An arthrogram is a safe, effective test for diagnosing joint injuries. Doctors at Children’s Colorado order an arthrogram when your child injures a shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip or knee. These injuries usually happen during sports.

During an arthrogram, we give your child a shot of fluid called contrast into the joint, which helps us see damaged soft tissue or cartilage. Then we perform the MRI test using magnets to produce detailed images of the joint.

How should I prepare my child for a pediatric arthrogram?

  • Take time to talk with your child and explain the test.
  • Reassure your child that they’ll be safe and comfortable.
  • You may want to bring a comfort item like a stuffed animal, toy or blanket.

If you’re pregnant, you need to avoid X-rays, so please bring another adult to the hospital to support your child. Siblings and other children are not allowed in the exam room during the test, so please make arrangements for someone to stay with them.

What to expect during your child’s arthrogram

Sometimes medical tests make children and parents nervous, so it’s helpful to know what to expect. You’ll generally follow these steps for a scheduled arthrogram:

Check in to the hospital

  • For a sedated arthrogram, arrive 1 hour and 15 minutes before your child’s scheduled procedure. (Please see below for more information about sedation.)
  • For a non-sedated arthrogram, please arrive 1 hour before the procedure.
  • Bring a list of your child’s medicines and insurance card.
  • We’ll give your child an identification bracelet to ensure they get the right test.
  • A nurse and child life specialist will talk with you and your child about the procedure and answer any questions.
  • You’ll fill out paperwork and sign a consent form.

Take X-rays and receive contrast injection

  • We take X-ray images of the injured area to determine where to put the contrast fluid.
  • Your child then heads to the Interventional Radiology room, along with a radiologist, technologist and child life specialist. The room is a sterile environment (only the patient and hospital team members are allowed inside), so you’ll wait nearby during the test (usually 30–45 minutes).
  • We give your child a numbing cream in the area where we will inject the contrast solution.
  • We clean the injured area and cover your child with sterile towels and a blanket.
  • The child life specialist helps your child relax by asking them to take a deep breath and blow it out.
  • The doctor injects contrast fluid into the joint using special X-rays called fluoroscopy to guide the needle. Then they remove the needle and bandage the area.

Receive sedation or anesthesia, if needed

We make every effort to help your child feel comfortable without using anesthesia or sedation by offering:

  • Child life specialists who help prepare children beforehand with toys and other aids
  • Pediatric nurses and technologists who guide your child through every aspect of the exam
  • An ambient MRI suite designed with welcoming colors and animated projections (available at our Anschutz Medical Campus and South Campus)
  • A DVD system that allows children to watch a movie during their exam (available at our Anschutz, North Campus and in Colorado Springs)
  • A two-way audio and TV communication system so your child can communicate throughout the exam

However, some children can’t stay still for an MRI. They need sedation or anesthesia to help them relax or sleep during the procedure. We consider factors like your child’s age and size, along with the length of the MRI, when giving sedation. We’ll discuss this with you in advance of your child’s procedure.

Take an MRI test

  • You and your child go to another room for an MRI, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed image of the joint. Learn about what to expect and how to prepare your child for the MRI procedure.
  • A radiologist reviews the MRI results and sends a report to your child’s doctor, who follows up with you on the next steps.

What to expect after a pediatric arthrogram

During the arthrogram, we place a bandage over the area where your child received the contrast injection. You can remove this bandage after one day, and then your child can bathe or shower.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your questions.

Why choose us for pediatric arthrograms

As a comprehensive pediatric hospital, Children’s Colorado focuses on kids’ unique needs. Our diagnostic approach keeps your child safe and gathers the information we need to provide the best care. We offer:

  • Expertise: Our highly skilled radiology doctors and technologists are experts in performing arthrograms, and our child life specialists are specially trained to help put your child at ease.
  • Specialized equipment: We designed every area of our hospital with kids in mind. We use child-sized equipment and smaller needles to provide a safer, more comfortable experience for your child.
  • Advanced technology: We use sophisticated MRI machines to create precise, accurate images of your child’s injury, so we can choose the most appropriate treatment.
  • Convenience: We offer radiology, imaging and testing at several of our locations throughout Colorado. You can filter by specialty service, city or zip code to find the test you need closest to home.

Learn more and schedule a pediatric arthrogram

For more questions or to schedule a pediatric arthrogram, contact Children’s Colorado Interventional Radiology at 720-777-8671 or the general radiology scheduling line at 720-777-6541.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your questions.