Joint aspiration: A procedure whereby a sterile needle and syringe are used to drain joint fluid from the joint. This is usually done as an office procedure or at the bedside in the hospital. The procedure is also known medically as arthrocentesis.
For an arthrocentesis, the skin over the joint is sterilized with a liquid. Local anesthetic is applied to the area of the joint either by injection or topical liquid freezing, or both. A needle with a syringe attached is inserted within the joint and fluid is sucked back (aspirated). For certain conditions medication is put into the joint after fluid removal. The needle is then removed and a bandaid or dressing is applied over the entry point.
Arthrocentesis can be helpful in relieving joint swelling and pain. Occasionally, cortisone medications are injected into the joint during the arthrocentesis in order to rapidly relieve joint inflammation and further reduce symptoms.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/9/2016