Elbow Injection or Aspiration
In This Page:
- Need to Know
- Nice to Know
- How Does It Work?
- What Happens — Before, During, and After?
- How Should I Prepare?
- What Should I Bring?
- What Are the Benefits and Risks?
Removing fluid from the elbow (joint aspiration) for laboratory testing can help a doctor diagnose the nature and severity of a patient's condition. Some types of conditions, such as tendonitis or bursitis, benefit from the injection of medications into the joint space. Joint injections or aspirations are usually done under local anesthesia in the doctor's office or in a hospital. Elbow injections may require the aid of an X-ray called fluoroscopy for guidance.
Need to Know
Nice to Know
How Does It Work?
Using image-guidance from fluoroscopy (X-rays that show motion inside your body in real-time) or CT scans, your doctor will place a long needle into the elbow joint and inject steroid medication to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. To aspirate the elbow joint a needle is placed in the joint and fluid is aspirated and a sample is sent to the lab for analysis.
What Happens — Before, During, and After?
A clinical staff member or technologist will bring you into the pre-procedure area and ask you to change into a gown. Your doctor will greet you, review the procedure, and answer any questions you may have. You will be brought into the procedure room, and you will be positioned on the procedure table.
The technologist will sterilize, and cover the area of your body where the needle will be inserted with a surgical drape. A local anesthetic is administered to numb the area where the needle will be placed. Once the area is numb, your doctor will advance the needle into your joint using image guidance. A small amount of x-ray dye can be injected to confirm needle placement. Once the needle is in the joint the medication can be injected or fluid can be aspirated. You might feel some discomfort as the medication is being administered. This should only last a short moment and will most likely dissipate as soon as the injection is complete. Once the medicine has been administered you may feel some tingling. You should tell your doctor if you feel any sharp pain.
The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes.
How Should I Prepare?
There are things you can do to make your experience more comfortable, and many of these will depend on your individual preferences. You might like to keep a list of questions or – as you’re doing now- educate yourself about the procedure.
Another important part of your preparation will be guided by your doctor:
- Your doctor may ask you to stop taking aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), or blood thinners (such as Coumadin, Warfarin, Plavix, Fragmin) for a time before the procedure.
Some of your preparation will need to be timed to the procedure:
- The day before the procedure (or the Friday before, if you’re scheduled for a Monday procedure), a clinical staff member from the Interventional Radiology Department will call you. The clinical staff member will give you any additional instructions, and will ask if you have any questions.
- Take your medications as instructed
- When you arrive, make sure the clinical staff member and radiologist know about any allergies you may have, especially allergies to local anesthetics (such as lidocaine), general anesthetics, or x-ray dye (contrast media). If there’s any chance you might be pregnant, tell your radiologist.
What Should I Bring?
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Avoid bringing jewelry or valuables
What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The benefits of Elbow Injection or Aspiration include:
- Relief of elbow pain
- Reduced inflammation which may lead to healing
- Joint aspiration is usually performed as a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure
Risks you should be aware of include:
- As with any procedure there is a slight risk of infection
- Rarely, this procedure can cause a temporary increase in pain
- Rarely there are reactions to the pain medication such as rash
- There is a slight risk of nerve damage at the injection site
- There is a slight risk of bleeding
- If fluoroscopy is used, there are risks associated with exposure to X-rays. You should discuss this with your physician
Keep in mind that this information is general. Your radiologist is the best source of information about how these risks and benefits may apply to you.