Joint Aspiration

Joint aspiration is a procedure to remove fluid from the space around a joint using a needle and syringe. This is usually done under a local anesthetic to relieve swelling and/or to obtain fluid for analysis to diagnose a joint disorder or problem.

Joint aspiration is most often done 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.

Why might I need a joint aspiration?

Joint aspiration may be done to diagnose and assist in the treatment of joint disorders and/or problems. By analyzing the fluid, the following conditions may be diagnosed:

  • Gout
  • Various types of arthritis
  • Joint infection

Joint aspiration can also be done to remove a large collection of fluid around a joint. Sometimes bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) causes fluid to collect near a joint. Removing the fluid will decrease the pressure, relieve pain, and improve movement of the joint. Sometimes, a medicine is injected following removal of the fluid to help treat tendonitis or bursitis.

There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend a joint aspiration.

What are the risks of a joint aspiration?

As with any surgical procedure, complications can happen. Some possible complications may include:

  • 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 on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How do I get ready for a joint aspiration?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you and offer you the chance 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.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).
  • Tell your healthcare provider of all medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medicines, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medicines before the procedure.
  • If you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant, you should notify your healthcare provider.
  • Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation is needed.
  • Based on your medical condition, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.