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Joint Aspiration

What is joint aspiration?

Joint aspiration is a way to remove fluid from a joint. It is also called arthrocentesis

When is it used?

The procedure is used to:

  • Remove uncomfortable amounts of fluid from a joint.
  • Get a sample of joint fluid for testing.

Infection, gout, and other problem can cause fluid to form in joints. The fluid can cause pain and swelling. Testing joint fluid can help your healthcare provider figure out the cause of your symptoms.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

Follow any instructions your healthcare provider gives you.

What happens during the procedure?

Your healthcare provider will clean the area around the joint. You may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area so the procedure will not be painful.

Your provider will insert a needle into the joint and withdraw fluid. After removing the needle, your provider will put pressure on the place where the needle was inserted and may put a bandage on it. Your provider may use ultrasound or X-rays to guide the needle.

The fluid sample will be tested in a lab.

You may be given shots into the joint to prevent inflammation.

What happens after the procedure?

  • You can go home after the procedure.
  • You may need to put ice on the joint 20 to 30 minutes every 3 or 4 hours until the pain goes away.
  • You may need to put an elastic bandage on the joint.
  • For pain you may take acetaminophen, aspirin, or medicine prescribed by your healthcare provider.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
    • Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
  • You should avoid stressing the joint. For example, avoid walking too much if fluid was removed from your knee or toe. Avoid lifting objects if fluid was removed from your wrist or elbow.

Ask your healthcare provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

Removing fluid may help your joint feel better. The procedure may also help your healthcare provider make a better diagnosis.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

  • A local anesthetic may not numb the area quite enough and you may feel some minor discomfort. Also, in rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the drug used in this type of anesthesia.
  • More fluid may form in the joint.
  • You may develop infection or bleeding.

You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your provider right away if:

  • You have swelling.
  • There is drainage from the puncture area.
  • You develop a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C).
  • You have pain that gets worse even though you are taking pain medicine.
  • The area is red and warm.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-08-15
Last reviewed: 2011-06-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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