Joint Aspiration: Care Instructions

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During a joint aspiration, a doctor uses a needle to take fluid out of your joint. This might be done to test the fluid for infection or to find a cause for a joint problem. These problems may include bleeding, infection, gout, or pseudogout. Sometimes fluid is taken out to relieve pressure and pain from too much fluid in the joint.

The area where the needle is inserted may be numbed before the needle is put in. Then the needle is slowly put into the joint. A syringe attached to the needle is used to remove fluid. The fluid may be put in tubes or containers and sent to the lab. Sometimes a shot of steroid medicine is also given into the joint. This can help relieve inflammation and pain. It can also help prevent the fluid from building up again.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you have bandages over the area, keep them clean and dry. You may remove them when your doctor tells you to.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Avoid strenuous activities for several days, especially those that put stress on the area where the needle was put in.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.