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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Arthrocentesis Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


This is a procedure to take joint fluid out of a joint using a sterile needle. This can be done in most of the joints in the body, but it is usually done on larger ones (eg, knee, shoulder).

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Examine your joint
  • X-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body


Your doctor may give you local anesthesia. This numbs the area around the joint.

Description of the Procedure

Your doctor will clean the area where the needle will be inserted. Next, a needle attached to a syringe will be inserted into the fluid-filled joint cavity. Your doctor will draw the fluid into the syringe. After this, the doctor may take the syringe off and inject some medicine into the joint through the needle. After the needle is removed, the doctor will put pressure on the spot over the joint. A bandage will be placed over the area.

How Long Will It Take?

About 5-10 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?

You may feel stinging or burning if local anesthesia is injected into the area.

Post-procedure Care

When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • For the first 24 hours, ice the joint every 3-4 hours. Do this for 20 minutes at a time.
  • To reduce discomfort, take a pain reliever.
  • Ask your doctor when you can resume normal activities.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .



Arthritis Foundation

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases


The Arthritis Society

Canadian Orthopaedic Association


Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co; 1998.

Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby-Year Book; 1998.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: . Accessed October 14, 2005.



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