Arthrocentesis is a common procedure with few risks, and patients usually recover quickly. Some patients may resume activities immediately, while others may be told to rest the affected joint from anywhere between 4 to 24 hours.
Patients should learn what to expect during arthrocentesis recovery, what the common side effects are, and when to call a doctor.
Some patients may be advised that they will need someone to drive them home following the procedure. Local anesthetics such as lidocaine typically wear off in 2 to 4 hours, so patients may feel an increase in pain shortly after leaving the doctor’s office.2
It is common to have mild soreness for a day or two after the procedure.
Patients should ask their doctors whether it is okay to take anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) or other over-the-counter pain medication. Depending on the circumstances, the doctor may recommend periodically icing the joint and wrapping it in a bandage to prevent re-swelling.
Arthrocentesis Potential Risks and Complications
The most common side effect associated with arthrocentesis is temporary joint discomfort. Other risks include:
- The needle may scrape or puncture the joint’s tendons, blood vessels or nerves.
- The patient may have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
- In rare cases, the needle puncture can introduce blood or infection into the synovial joint cavity. Infection occurs in less than 0.01% of patients who undergo joint injections.3
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Call a doctor immediately if any of the following occur:
- Moderate to severe pain (mild pain and soreness is normal, but pain that is not adequately controlled with over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs should be reported)
- Moderate to extreme swelling
- Discoloration or rash around the injection area
- Bleeding or discharge from the needle’s entry point
For most patients, arthrocentesis is a safe and uneventful procedure.
- Courtney P, Doherty M. Joint aspiration and injection and synovial fluid analysis. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, Volume 27, Issue 2, April 2013, Pages 137-169, ISSN 1521-6942, www.sciencedirect.com.
- Zuber TJ. Knee joint aspiration and injection. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Oct 15;66(8):1497-500, 1503-4, 1507. PubMed PMID: 12408424.