MR arthrogram solution

MR arthrogram solution is a gadolinium containing mixture injected into a joint for MR arthrography. 

Fluoroscopy, ultrasound or CT guidance can be used to cannulate a joint, which is then injected with the MR arthrogram solution.  MR arthrogram solutions differ in different institutions, but will broadly contain a mixture of gadolinium, diluted with saline and non-iodinated contrast and/or local anesthetic.  Commonly used is a 1 in 200 dilution of gadolinium i.e. 0.1mL in 20mL 1.

Suggested MR arthrogram solution mixtures for x-ray guided injections:

  • 0.1mL gadolinium
  • 14.9mL 0.9% saline
  • 5mL non-iodinated contrast
  • 5mL longer-acting local anesthetic / 5mL 0.9% saline

Suggested MR arthrogram solution mixture for ultrasound-guided injections :

  • 0.1mL gadolinium
  • 14.9mL 0.9% saline
  • 5mL longer-acting local anesthetic / 5mL 0.9% saline

Non-iodinated contrast can be substituted for 0.9% saline however its inclusion will enable the practitioner to assess joint distention and for extra-articular injection.  It is not required for ultrasound-guided procedures.

Local anesthetic use is more controversial, with many shown to be chondrotoxic at typical therapeutic doses, particularly lidocaine 2,3.  Of all routinely available anesthetics, ropivacaine at concentrations of 0.5% appears safest 3.  Their addition in a small quantity, offer a diagnostic benefit with the patient keeping a pain diary after their injection. 

  • T1: high signal
  • T2: high signal (fluid)

MRI sequences performed will be predominantly fat-saturated T1 sequences, thus leaving the T1 high signal gadolinium to outline or extend into a labral or meniscal tear.

Over concentration/ under diluted of gadolinium can result in the ‘black contrast effect’ resulting in low signal (black) fluid on all sequences 4.

Iatrogenic gas bubbles will have similar appearances to intra-articular loose bodies, therefore needles and tubes should be primed before injection.

The arthrogram injection report should include:

  • the total injected volume of the MR arthrogram solution
  • the amount and concentrations of solutions used to make the MR arthrogram solution
  • MR arthrogram solutions differ in different institutions, and it is time well spent familiarising with local ‘recipes’ before undertaking
  • 3T MRI techniques has much improved labral and meniscal (TFCC) imaging and many institutions will first perform non-arthrographic imaging before considering MR arthrography, particular hip joints 
  • joint volumes differ and the injected volume of the MR arthrogram solution should reflect the size of the joint, i.e. hip 10-12mL and wrist 2-3mL
  • confirming an intra-articular needle position first with only non-iatrogenic contrast will reduce the chance of extra-articular gadolinium, which can interfere with interpretation although more experienced practitioners may opt to only inject the MR arthrogram solution
  • if intra-articular injection is confirmed first with only non-iatrogenic contrast, care must be taken in small joints i.e. wrist, so not to fill the joint then leaving no room for the MR solution
  • using a 20mL for the clear MR arthrogram solution will identify it from other clear solution syringes such as local anesthetic for the skin and iodinated contrast, often in 5mL and 10mL syringes

Article information

rID: 7268
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • MRI arthrogram solution
  • Arthrogram solution cocktail

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Cases and figures

  • There is no leaka...
    Case 1: normal wrist arthrogram
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  • Case 2: black contrast effect
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