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What is 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: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 13, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Arthrocentesis. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
  2. Evaluation of the Patient with Joint Disorders. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals.
  3. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.
  4. Joint Aspiration (Arthrocentesis). Kids Health from Nemours Foundation.
  5. Knee Joint Aspiration and Injection. American Academy of Family Physicians.

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