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For Parents: An Arthrogram and MRI

A boy wearing a green shirt, white helmet, black shoulder pads and black gloves runs while holding a lacrosse stick with a ball in it.
Arthrograms are ordered when a child has done joint damage, often caused by playing sports.

Doctors order an arthrogram when a child has done damage to a joint (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, or knee) usually while playing a sport. 

The test checks the damage and takes place in the Interventional Radiology room at Children’s Hospital Colorado. As a result, doctors can determine the place in your child’s joint that damage has occurred.

X-ray pictures are taken to tell us the exact area we need to put in the contrast. Contrast is a liquid that shows us where the injury is located and is given by the doctor in the form of a shot.

Preparing for an arthrogram test at Children’s Colorado

It is important that you arrive at Children’s Colorado 30 minutes before the test is scheduled. This will give you enough time to check in and get a patient identification bracelet. Hospital staff will be checking this bracelet to make sure the right procedure is being done for your child.

After your child is checked in, you will walk to the Radiology area, where you will fill out paper work. Please bring a list of your child’s medicines and insurance card.

Sometimes medical test make both parents and their children nervous. Here are some helpful tips we at Children’s Colorado recommend before arriving for a scheduled arthrogram:

  • Take some time to talk to your child about the test before coming to the hospital.
  • Let your child know the tests are only done in a hospital setting by hospital staff (a radiology doctor and technologists).
  • Bring a comfort item from home like a stuffed animal, toy or blanket.
  • Before the test, a Children’s Colorado child life specialist will meet with you and your child (3 years and older) in the Radiology waiting area. They are trained to talk about procedures and tests and answer any questions or concerns you (or your child) may have.
  • A child life specialist will also be available to support your child during the test to help decrease their anxiety.
  • Due to the sterile environment, parents are not able to be in Interventional Radiologist. The child life specialist will be present the entire time to provide support.

What to expect during your child's arthrogram

Arthrograms are done in a sterile (surgically clean) environment. This means every safety measure is taken to make sure no germs touch the area where the contrast material is given. Because the area is sterile, parents are not allowed to be in the room with their child, but your child will not be alone. A radiology doctor, technician and child life specialist will be with them during the test.

Parents will be asked to sign a consent form which gives Children’s Colorado permission to do the procedure. We ask you to stay in the waiting-area until the test is finished, which should be about 30 to 45 minutes.

Before the arthrogram, your child will take off their clothes and put on a hospital gown (they can leave their underwear on). Then the skin will be cleaned really well with a cold, soapy liquid. Your child will then be covered with sterile towels and a blanket. Read kid-friendly information with your child about the arthrogram here.

During the test, contrast fluid will be injected (by a needle) into the injured area. Once the injection has been given, parents can come see their child and go with them to another room for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Learn more about what to expect and how to prepare your child for the MRI procedure.