Joint injections

Five facts about Joint injections or Joint Aspirations

  • Joint aspiration is used in a physician office to take out the joint fluid from a swelling joint.
  • Joint injection is used to put the medications into the joint.
  • Aspirated joint fluid can help your physician diagnose the cause of the swelling joint.
  • Joint injection with medication can provide the relief for the pain and swelling in the joint.
  • The risks for joint aspirations and injections are minimal. Infection, bleeding, and other major risks are rare.

Joint injections or aspirations (taking fluid out of a joint) are performed in an office or hospital setting, often with a cold spray or other local anesthesia. After the skin surface is thoroughly cleaned, the joint is entered with a needle attached to a syringe. At this point, either joint fluid can be obtained (aspirated) and used for appropriate laboratory testing or medications can be injected into the joint space. This technique also applies to injections into a bursa or tendon sheath to treat bursitis and tendonitis, respectively.

Commonly injected joints include the knee, shoulder, ankle, elbow, wrist, base of the thumb and small joints of the hands and feet. Hip joint injection may require the aid of an ultrasound or X-ray called fluoroscopy for guidance. Some small joints may also be more easily aspirated or injected with aid of ultrasound.

joint injection

What benefit is derived from a joint aspiration or joint injection?

Joint aspiration usually is done for help with diagnosis or treatment. Fluid obtained from a joint aspiration can be examined by the physician or sent for laboratory analysis, which may include a cell count (the number of white or red blood cells), crystal analysis (to confirm the presence of gout or calcium pyrophosphate crystal disease), and/or culture (to determine if an infection is present inside the joint). Drainage of a large joint effusion can provide pain relief and improved mobility.

Joint injections may decrease the accumulation of fluid and cells in the joint and may temporarily decrease pain and stiffness. They may be given to treat inflammatory joint conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, tendonitis, bursitis and, also, osteoarthritis.

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