Joint Aspiration

By Marty Polovich

(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

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

  • Cartilage. A type of tissue that covers the surface of a bone at a joint. Cartilage helps reduce the friction of movement within a joint.

  • Synovial membrane. A tissue that lines the joint and seals it into a joint capsule. The synovial membrane secretes synovial fluid (a clear, sticky fluid) around the joint to lubricate it.

  • Ligament. A type of tough, elastic connective tissue that surrounds the joint to give support and limits the joint's movement.

  • Tendon. A type of tough connective tissue that connects muscles to bones and helps to control movement of the joint.

  • Bursa. A fluid-filled sac located between bones, ligaments, or other adjacent structures that helps cushion joints.

  • Meniscus. A curved part of cartilage in the knees and other joints that acts as a shock absorber.

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 physician 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:

  • Discomfort at the aspiration site

  • Bruising at the aspiration site

  • Swelling at the aspiration site

  • Infection at the aspiration site

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

Before the Procedure

  • Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.

  • Notify your physician if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medications, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).

  • Notify your physician of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.

  • Notify your physician if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medications prior to the procedure.

  • If you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant, you should notify your physician.

  • Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation is required. However, if fluid is taken from the joint to be tested in a lab, you may be asked to fast for a certain period of time before the procedure.

  • Based upon your medical condition, your physician may request other specific preparation.



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