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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Nov;203(5):1059-62. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.11190.

Postprocedural pain in shoulder arthrography: differences between using preservative-free normal saline and normal saline with benzyl alcohol as an intraarticular contrast diluent.

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1 Department of Radiology, Shands/University of Florida, PO Box 100374, Gainesville, FL 32610-0374.



The purpose of this study was to prospectively evaluate the effect of benzyl alcohol, a common preservative in normal saline, on postprocedural pain after intraarticular injection for direct shoulder MR arthrography.


From April 2011 through January 2013, 138 patients underwent direct shoulder MR arthrography. Using the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Scale, patients were asked to report their shoulder pain level immediately before and immediately after the procedure and then were contacted by telephone 6, 24, and 48 hours after the procedure. Fourteen patients did not receive the prescribed amount of contrast agent for diagnostic reasons or did not complete follow-up. Sixty-two patients received an intraarticular solution including preservative-free normal saline (control group) and 62 patients received an intraarticular solution including normal saline with 0.9% benzyl alcohol as a contrast diluent (test group). Patients were randomized as to which intraarticular diluent they received. Fluoroscopic and MR images were reviewed for extracapsular contrast agent administration or extravasation, full-thickness rotator cuff tears, and adhesive capsulitis. The effect of preservative versus control on pain level was estimated with multiple regression, which included time after procedure as the covariate and accounted for repeated measures over patients.


Pain scale scores were significantly (p = 0.0382) higher (0.79 units; 95% CI, 0.034-1.154) with benzyl alcohol preservative compared with control (saline). In both study arms, the pain scale scores decreased slightly after the procedure, increased by roughly 1 unit over baseline for the test group and 0.3 unit over baseline for the control group by 6 hours after the procedure, were 0.50 unit over baseline for the test group and 0.12 unit over baseline for the control group at 24 hours, then fell to be slightly greater than baseline at 48 hours with benzyl alcohol and slightly less than baseline without benzyl alcohol. These trends over time were highly significant (p < 0.0001).


Shoulder arthrography is often associated with postprocedural discomfort that begins immediately after the procedure and resolves by 48 hours. There is significantly increased patient discomfort at 6 and 48 hours when using normal saline preserved with benzyl alcohol as a diluent compared with using normal saline without preservative as a diluent.


MR arthrography; benzyl alcohol; discomfort; preservative; shoulder

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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