Joint Fluid Aspiration
This procedure uses a small needle to suck out fluid from a joint that has been accumulating.
It can be done to not only make the patient feel better, as it relieves pressure on the joint, but to also establish a diagnosis, as the fluid can then be analyzed. The analysis is not always necessary, but it can be useful if the physician suspects another diagnosis like an inflammatory condition (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, gout), infection, or even cancer.
What are the benefits?
Pain relief and diagnosis (please see above).
How long will my pain be reduced?
This depends on if the joint fluid aspiration is combined with an injection, such as steroid, or if it’s simply to drain the fluid. It also depends on the degree of osteoarthritis, inflammatory condition, or if something else is this cause.
How often can I have this done?
A joint aspiration can be repeated as oftentimes as necessary, given that the underlying reason is fully understood.
Who can’t have this done?
Again, this depends on the reason for the aspiration. If it’s for swelling from osteoarthritis alone, we’d want to ensure that there is no overlying infection on the skin or within the body, as we wouldn’t want to introduce anything new. If, on the other hand, the reason for the aspiration is to rule out joint infection in the first place, we would proceed very cautiously.
What are the side effects?
Common, but not severe
Pain during the procedure: The skin is the most sensitive part when it comes to any needle procedure. We minimize this by using local anesthetic and/or a vapocoolant spray on the skin. Pain associated with this is usually brief and well-tolerated.
Not common, but potentially severe
Infection: When a needle is passed through the skin into the body, there is a very small chance of introducing a joint infection. The chance of this occurring is extremely low, less than 0.002%, or equivalent to being struck by a car as a pedestrian and experiencing a catastrophic event. To minimize this risk, we not only follow the WHO minimum best practice standards for injections, but use sterile gloves, sterile ultrasound probe covers, and sterile ultrasound gel.
Bleeding: This is a greater risk if you have a known bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners. By using ultrasound guidance, there is less “poking” around to get to the target tissue of interest, and thus less theoretical risk of bleeding. Pressure is maintained over the skin afterwards to reduce bleeding.
Can I drive afterwards?
We recommend bringing a driver with you if you’re scheduled for an ankle or foot procedure. Otherwise, most people can drive afterwards. Nonetheless, we ask all patients to remain in the clinic waiting room for a minimum of 15 minutes afterwards to observe for any adverse reactions.
Can I play sports afterwards?
This depends on the type of sport and intensity. Overall, please be mindful with anything you do and listen to your body.