Arthrocentesis takes joint fluid out using a needle. It can be done in most of the joints in the body. It is usually done on large joints like the knee or shoulder.
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It is done to:
Some people may have medicine injected in the joint space after the fluid has been taken out.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
You will be given local anesthesia. The area will be numbed.
A needle attached to a syringe will be inserted into the joint. Fluid will be pulled into the syringe. Medicine may also be injected into the joint through the needle. The needle will be removed. A bandage will be put on the site.
About 5 to 10 minutes
Pain and swelling are common in the first 2 days. Medicine and home care can help.
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
It will take a few weeks for the incision and muscles to fully heal. Physical activity may need to be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work for a few weeks.
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Joint aspiration (arthrocentesis). Rady Children's Hospital San Diego website. Available at: https://www.rchsd.org/health-articles/joint-aspiration-arthrocentesis. Accessed September 28, 2020.
Synovial fluid analysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/lab-monograph/synovial-fluid-analysis. Accessed September 28, 2020.
Synovial fluid analysis. Lab Tests Online—American Association for Clinical Chemistry website. Available at:
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Accessed September 28, 2020.
Tercic D, Bozic B. The basis of the synovial fluid analysis. Clin Chem Lab Med 2001; 39(12):1221-1226.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 6/8/2021