Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Joint Aspiration

Joint Aspiration

(Joint Injection and Aspiration, Joint Aspiration and Analysis, Arthrocentesis)

Procedure overview

What is joint aspiration?

Joint aspiration refers to removing fluid from the space around a joint using a needle and syringe. This is usually performed under a local anesthetic to either relieve swelling or to obtain fluid for analysis to diagnose a joint disorder and/or problem.

Joint aspiration is usually performed on the knee. However, fluid can also be removed from other joints, such as the hip, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.

Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose joint problems include X-ray, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT scan), arthroscopy, and arthrography. Please see these procedures for additional information.

Anatomy of the joint

Anatomy of the knee joint
Click Image to Enlarge

Joints are formed where bones meet. Most joints are mobile, allowing the bones to move. Joints consist of the following:

Reasons for the procedure

Joint aspiration may be performed to diagnose and assist in the treatment of joint disorders and/or problems. By analyzing the fluid obtained during the procedure, the following conditions may be determined:

Joint aspiration can also be performed to remove a large collection of fluid around a joint. Sometimes bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) causes fluid to collect in a joint. Removing the fluid will decrease the pressure, relieve pain, and improve movement of the joint. Sometimes, a medication is injected into the joint following removal of the fluid to help treat tendonitis or bursitis.

There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a joint aspiration.

Risks of the procedure

As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some possible complications may include, but are not limited to, the following:

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.

Before the procedure

During the procedure

A joint aspiration may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor’s practices.

Generally, a joint aspiration procedure follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  2. You will be positioned so that the doctor can easily reach the joint that is to be aspirated.
  3. The skin over the joint aspiration site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
  4. If a local anesthetic is used, you will feel a needle stick when the anesthetic is injected. This may cause a brief stinging sensation.
  5. The doctor will insert the needle through the skin into the joint. You may feel some discomfort or pressure.
  6. The doctor will remove the fluid by drawing it into a syringe that is attached to the needle.
  7. The needle will be removed and a sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.
  8. The fluid sample will be sent to the lab for examination.

After the procedure

Once you are home, it is important for you to keep the joint aspiration site clean and dry. Leave the bandage in place for as long as instructed by your doctor.

The aspiration site may be tender or sore for a few days after the joint aspiration procedure. Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or certain other pain medications may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medications.

Notify your doctor to report any of the following:

Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.

Online resources

The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

This page contains links to other websites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these websites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

American College of Rheumatology

Arthritis Foundation

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Library of Medicine

 

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