Joint Aspiration (Arthrocentesis)

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Take the Pain Quiz

How is joint aspiration performed?

The skin over the joint is cleaned using a liquid, typically an iodine solution (Betadine). Local anesthetic is used in the area of the joint; either by injection, a topical liquid coolant, or both. A needle with a syringe attached is inserted within the joint and joint fluid is drawn back under suction (aspirated) into the syringe. For certain conditions, the doctor will also inject medication into the joint after fluid removal. The needle is then removed and a Band-Aid or dressing is applied over the entry point.

What are complications of joint aspiration?

Complications of joint aspiration are uncommon. Possible complications include a reaction to the local anesthetic, local bruising or, minor bleeding into the joint. If cortisone is used, there may be loss of pigment in the skin (a light-colored spot may develop). A rare but serious complication of joint aspiration is infection of the joint (septic arthritis).

If cortisone-related medications (corticosteroids) are injected into the joint, additional uncommon complications include inflammation in the joint as a result of the medication crystallizing, shrinkage (atrophy) or loss of pigment of skin at the injection site, increased blood sugar (worsening of diabetes mellitus), and aggravation of preexisting infection elsewhere in the body. If multiple injections with corticosteroids are given too frequently, it is possible to develop systemic side effects (side effects throughout the body), such as weight gain, puffy face and trunk, and easy bruising. Injection of hyaluronic acid derivatives may cause local inflammation and swelling of the joint due to a reaction to the medication.

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


"Joint aspiration or injection in adults: Technique and indications"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/8/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

  • Joint Aspiration - complications

    Did you experience any complications as a result of your joint aspiration? Please explain.

    Post View 3 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors