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What is involved with having your knee drained?

I injured my knee and my doctor said that if the swelling won't go down on its own I might have to have it drained. What does this involve? What is actually being drained out of your knee? Blood?
Drainage of a joint is called arthrocentesis, and involves the use of a needle to draw out fluid contained within the joint space. Sometimes this fluid turns out to be blood; this may be the case in patients with bleeding disorders or traumatic injuries to the joint. However, in many other cases, it is regular non-bloody fluid that is drawn out of a joint; this fluid may be inflamed due to joint injury, infection, auto-immune disease or crystal deposit disease. In the case of the knee, your doctor will have you lie or sit on the exam table. The knee will be prepped in a sterile fashion and then a local anesthetic such as lidocaine will be used to numb the skin where a larger needle will be inserted. Your doctor will insert the needle under the knee cap, and this can be done from either side. When the needle enters the joint space, a syringe can be used to pull off any excess fluid found in the joint space. This fluid can be analyzed under a microscope to help determine the cause of the fluid build-up. If the suspicion for infection is very low, then your doctor may choose to inject a combination of lidocaine and steroids into the joint at the time of this procedure, in order to help reduce pain and swelling. For more information about your knee, I advise you to discuss this with your primary care physician. Good luck!
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.

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