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What is arthrocentesis?

Arthrocentesis

Arthrocentesis is the removal of the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints. Doctors perform arthrocentesis using a needle and syringe. The fluid is removed and tested to diagnose the cause of a buildup of fluid. Causes include infection, arthritis, and joint injury. Doctors also use arthrocentesis to treat joint pain by removing excessive or infected fluid. Arthrocentesis is performed in many joints, including the elbow, knee, hip and jaw. 

Arthrocentesis is only one method used to diagnose or treat a variety of joint conditions, most often of the knee. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having an arthrocentesis.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to arthrocentesis to diagnose or treat certain conditions. These include: 

  • Medication injection, which involves injecting medication, such as an anesthetic or a steroid, into the joint. Medications are injected to help relieve pain, swelling and/or inflammation.
  • Synovial fluid biopsy, which involves examining the synovial fluid removed for infection and other disease
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 4, 2013

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Medical References

Arthrocentesis. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. http://www.mskcc.org/patient_education/_assets/downloads-english/675.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Evaluation of the Patient with Joint Disorders. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/approach_to_the_patient_with_joint_disease/evaluation_of_the_patient_with_joint_disorders.html. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Joint Aspiration (Arthrocentesis). Kids Health from Nemours Foundation. http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/arthrocentesis.html. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Knee Joint Aspiration and Injection. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/1015/p1497.html. Accessed April 18, 2013.

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