Joint Aspiration: What to Expect

This procedure sucks fluid from your knee, hip, shoulder, or other joints. Your doctor does it to diagnose arthritis or other joint problems. It can also reveal what type of arthritis you have, like gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

If you have arthritis, bursitis, or tendinitis, getting rid of extra fluid that's built up inside your joints can help relieve pain and let you to move more easily.

During the Procedure

You can have a joint aspiration done at your doctor's office or in a hospital and go home the same day.

You'll sit on a hospital bed or table. The doctor will first clean the skin over the joint. Then you might get a shot or a spray of a pain-numbing drug at the site.

Aspiration can be done on any of these places:

Your doctor will insert the needle into your joint and draw a small amount of fluid out into the syringe. An ultrasound or X-ray can help guide the needle to smaller joints in the hands or feet, or to the hip joint.

To treat arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis, you may need more fluid drawn. Your doctor will give you a shot of a steroid drug or other medicine to help lower swelling, relieve pressure and pain, and make it easier for you to move.

A joint aspiration takes only minutes. Stay seated for a few minutes afterward so you don't get dizzy.

Risks

Usually, you won’t have side effects from a joint aspiration. But they can include:

  • Pain where the doctor inserts the needle
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • An allergic reaction to the medicine injected into the joint
  • Cartilage damage inside the joint

After the Procedure

The joint fluid sample may be sent to a lab. A technician at the lab will test the sample for:

  • Number of white and red blood cells
  • Crystals, which are a sign of gout
  • Protein, sugar, and other substances
  • Infection

You should get the test results within a few days.

Recovery

Your doctor will tell you how to care for the needle site. Leave the bandage on until your doctor says it's OK to take it off. Keep the area clean.

You can go back to your normal activities after the procedure. But don’t jump or lift heavy objects for a couple of days.

It’s normal for the area where the needle went in to feel sore for a few days. If it bothers you, take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Ask your doctor which one to take. Aspirin and other pain relievers can make you more likely to bleed.

Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms after your joint aspiration:

  • Redness or swelling of the knee
  • More pain
  • Bleeding or drainage from the aspiration site
  • Fever of 100.4 F or higher

Pain relief from a joint aspiration can last anywhere from weeks to years. If your pain returns, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on February 06, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Rheumatology: "Joint Injections (Joint Aspirations)."

California Correctional Health Care Services: "Patient Education: Knee Joint Aspiration & Injection."

Cleveland Clinic: "Joint Aspiration."

Hopkins Medicine: "Joint Aspiration."

Medscape: "Joint Aspiration."

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.