Joint x-ray


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

Alternative Names

X-ray - joint; Arthrography; Arthrogram

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:

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


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.


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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.