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Learning About Joint Aspiration

What is joint aspiration?

Joint aspiration is a procedure to remove fluid from a joint. It's done most often in the knee. It may also be done in other joints, such as the elbow, shoulder, hip, or ankle. The fluid may be tested to see if you have a joint problem such as bleeding, infection, gout, or pseudogout. It can also be done to remove extra fluid that causes pressure and pain in the joint.

How is joint aspiration done?

First, the area over the joint will be cleaned to help prevent an infection. Your doctor may then use a needle to numb the skin in the area.

The doctor will insert a different needle into the joint and remove fluid. The needle is slowly put into the joint. The doctor may use ultrasound to help guide the needle into the joint. You may feel some pressure or discomfort. A syringe attached to the needle is used to remove fluid. The fluid may be put in tubes or containers and sent to the lab for testing.

Sometimes pain medicine (local anesthetic) or a cortisone (steroid) shot is also given into the joint. It can help relieve inflammation and pain. It can also help prevent the fluid from building up again.

The whole procedure takes 10 to 30 minutes. But the injection itself takes only a few minutes.

What can you expect after joint aspiration?

The area around the joint may feel numb for a few hours.

You can put ice or a cold pack on your joint for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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