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Health Information

Joint x-ray

Joint x-ray


X-ray - joint; Arthrography; Arthrogram

This test is an x-ray of a knee, shoulder, hip, wrist, ankle, or other joint.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office. The x-ray technologist will help you position the joint to be x-rayed on the table. Once in place, pictures are taken. The joint may be moved into other positions for more images.

  • How to Prepare for the Test

    Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry before the x-ray.

  • How the Test will Feel

    The x-ray is painless. It may be uncomfortable to move the joint into different positions.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    The x-ray is used to detect fractures, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the joint.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean

    The x-ray may show:

    • Arthritis
    • Fractures
    • Bone tumors
    • Degenerative bone conditions
    • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection)

    The test may also be performed to find out more about the following conditions:

    • Acute gouty arthritis (gout)
    • Adult-Onset Still's disease
    • Caplan syndrome
    • Chondromalacia patellae
    • Chronic gouty arthritis
    • Congenital dislocation of the hip
    • Fungal arthritis
    • Non-gonococcal (septic) bacterial arthritis
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Pseudogout
    • Psoriatic arthritis
    • Reiter syndrome
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Runner's knee
    • Tuberculous arthritis
  • Risks

    There is low radiation exposure. X-ray machines are set to provide the smallest amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits. Children and the fetuses of pregnant women are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray. A protective shield may be worn over areas not being scanned.

Related Information

  X-rayBroken boneArthritisBone tumorOsteomyelitisGoutAdult Still's dise...Caplan syndromeAnterior knee pain...Developmental dysp...     OsteoarthritisGoutRheumatoid arthrit...


Bearcroft PWP, Hopper MA. Imaging techniques and fundamental observations for the musculoskeletal system. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 45.

Mettler FA. Skeletal system. In: Mettler FA, ed. Essentials of Radiology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 8.


Review Date: 5/9/2015  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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