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What is joint aspiration or arthrocentesis?
Joint aspiration, also called arthrocentesis, is a procedure involving injection of a needle with syringe into the joint space. This allows the provider to remove synovial fluid (which “lubricates” the joints) to help relieve pain and swelling and improve mobility. The fluid may also be sent to the lab for testing and diagnosis of conditions such as gout, arthritis, and joint infection. The injection may also contain corticosteroids, medication to reduce inflammation and provide ongoing pain relief. Joint aspiration is often done in the knee joint but may also be performed in the hip, elbow, wrist, ankle or shoulder. Depending on the location and access to the joint space, fluoroscopy (X-ray guidance) or ultrasound may be used to highlight the area and allow for greater precision.
What to expect from joint aspiration
There is no special preparation for the procedure. Your provider will provide you with any additional information and guidance and may require you to stop certain medications in advance of having joint aspiration. The procedure itself takes only a few minutes and involves numbing of the area with a local anesthetic. Injection of the numbing agent may sting briefly. You may also feel some pressure and discomfort as the needle with syringe goes in. After the joint aspiration procedure is finished you may feel some soreness in the area for a few days. Your provider will recommend appropriate pain-relieving medication as needed.
If you experience increased pain, or any unusual swelling, bleeding or signs of infection, be sure to contact your provider right away.
If analysis of the synovial fluid was part of your procedure, your provider will review the results and discuss the results of the test with you. Your provider will also make any additional testing or treatment recommendations at that time.
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