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What is an Intra-Articular Joint Injection?

An intra-articular joint injection is a non-surgical procedure used to treat pain and inflammation in your joints. It involves injection of specific therapeutic agents which include corticosteroids, viscosupplements, and blood-derived products into the affected joint. Intra-articular joint injections are safe, effective, and provide quick and long-lasting pain relief.

Intra-articular joint injections are most commonly used for the shoulder, knee, and hip joints. They can also be used for the facet joints between the vertebrae in the spine, joints in the hands and feet, and the costochondral joints between the ribs and breastbone.

What are the Indications for an Intra-Articular Joint Injection?

Intra-articular joint injections are recommended for the treatment of pain arising from arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions such as:

  • Tendinopathy/tendonitis/tendinitis: a tendon disorder characterized by symptoms such as swelling, pain, and impaired function
  • Nerve compression syndrome: a condition in which a nerve is squeezed or compacted

How to Prepare for an Intra-Articular Joint Injection?

Your doctor will review your clinical symptoms and medical history. Inform your doctor about any previous allergies. You will be given specific instructions to follow before the procedure.

Procedure for Intra-Articular Joint Injections

An intra-articular joint injection generally involves the following steps:

  • You are taken to the procedure room where you will lie on a table.
  • Your doctor will examine the painful joint and mark the site of injection.
  • The area to be injected is cleaned using an antiseptic solution to prevent infection.
  • A topical or local anesthetic is used to numb the skin at the joint.
  • A needle is then injected into the soft tissues and advanced towards the joint and the drug is injected into the joint space.
  • Your doctor may use imaging tools such as ultrasound or fluoroscopy to guide the needle during the procedure.
  • After the injection, pressure is applied to the injection site and a bandage placed.

The entire procedure takes around 15-20 minutes. You will remain awake during the procedure and may view the procedure in real-time on a viewing screen linked to the imaging machine.

Post-Procedural Care for Intra-Articular Joint Injection

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself at home before discharge. These include:

  • Keep the injection site clean and dry.
  • You may be advised to apply ice at the injection site for swelling or discomfort.
  • Perform simple activities like walking and gentle stretching to keep your joints engaged and regain range of motion. This also helps you to recover faster.
  • Avoid excessive weight-bearing activities for 24-48 hours after the injection.

What are the Benefits/Advantages of Intra-Articular Joint Injections?

Intra-articular joint injections offer the following benefits and advantages:

  • Safer alternative compared to surgery
  • Simple procedure
  • Less risk of injury to the surrounding tissues and nerves
  • Provides pain relief for a minimum of 3-4 months
  • If required the injection can be repeated
  • Minimizes the need for oral medications
  • Well tolerated by the body cells
  • Cost-effective

What are the Risks and Complications of Intra-Articular Joint Injections?

An intra-articular joint injection may have the following risks and complications such as:

  • Soreness, swelling or bruising at the site of injection
  • Infection at the injection site
  • Changes in skin pigmentation