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For Kids: An Arthrogram and MRI

We thought you should know what happens when you have an arthrogram and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Please read this information with your parents and let us know if you have any questions when you come to the hospital. We will answer them before your test.

Why do I need an arthrogram?

An arthrogram is a test where your doctor takes a picture of the inside of your joint, which is the place where your bones meet. If you have had injury or pain in your joints (like your wrist, shoulder, knee, elbow, etc.), an arthrogram will help your doctor know exactly where the injured area is located. A special fluid called contrast is put in your joint space, which helps us see inside for any damage in soft tissue or cartilage (material that your joints are made of).

When the arthrogram is all done, you will go to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI will show exactly where the injury is and will help us know how to take care of it. 

When you and your parents get to Children's Colorado, you will do the following steps: 

  1. Admissions check-in: Here you will be given a plastic bracelet with your name on it. Many hospital workers will be looking at your bracelet throughout the day. This is how we make sure you are getting the right test for you. 
  2. Radiology check-in: Once you have your bracelet, you will go to a place called Radiology. Radiology is where we take pictures/X-rays to see how the inside of your body is working. While you are in this area you will meet a Children’s Colorado Child Life Specialist. The Child Life Specialist will talk to you about your test and answer any questions you may have. The Child Life Specialist will stay with the whole time to help you during the arthrogram.

Getting ready for an arthrogram at Children’s Colorado

  1. Go to the Interventional Radiology (IR) room: This is the room where you will have your test. This room must stay very clean and sterile, which means we don’t want any germs to get near your joint. Because of this, your parents won’t be able to be with you during the procedure. The doctor will ask your parent to sign a paper saying it is okay to do the procedure. During the test, you can listen to music,   use the hospital I-Pad or just talk.
  2. Putting on numbing cream: Depending on which joint is injured , you will get either, a numbing cream (called EMLA), lidocaine or both to help the nerves and skin around your joint not feel pain. 
  3. Making you clean: When you are in the room, you will lay on the table, either on your back or belly. We will use a cleaning liquid to make sure everything is all ready for the test. The liquid will feel wet and cold. Once the area is cleaned, we  will cover you with small blue towels and a paper blanket.  The radiology doctor is the only one who will be touching that part of your body.
  4. Doing the arthrogram at Children’s Colorado: When it is time to give you the contrast, the Child Life Specialist will tell you to take a big breath in and blow it out, which will help you relax. Pretend like you are blowing bubbles or a pinwheel. When the doctor has found the right part of your joint, the contrast will be given. Let the doctor know when you feel your joint begin to feel full. The doctor will then take the needle out. 
  5. All done!: The  technologist will put a small cotton square with clear tape over the area. It is now time to get ready for your MRI.

It's now time for your MRI

Following the arthrogram, we will take you to have an MRI. An MRI is a picture taking machine that is really helpful when we need to look at joints from a different point of view. Take a look at this kid-friendly overview of the MRI process.