(See also Evaluation of the Patient with Joint Symptoms Evaluation of the Elbow An evaluation of the elbow includes a physical examination and sometimes arthrocentesis (see How To Do Elbow Arthrocentesis). (See also Evaluation of the Patient With Joint Symptoms.) Synovial... read more and Evaluation of the Elbow Evaluation of the Ankle An evaluation of the ankle includes a physical examination and sometimes arthrocentesis (see How To Do Ankle Arthrocentesis). (See also Evaluation of the Patient With Joint Symptoms and Overview... read more .)
Indications for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Diagnosis of the cause of a synovial effusion (eg, infection Acute Infectious Arthritis Acute infectious (septic) arthritis is a joint infection that evolves over hours or days. The infection resides in synovial or periarticular tissues and is usually bacterial—in younger adults... read more , crystal-induced arthritis Overview of Crystal-Induced Arthritides Arthritis can result from intra-articular deposition of crystals: Monosodium urate Calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate Basic calcium phosphate (apatite) Rarely, others such as calcium oxalate crystals read more )
Removal of a synovial effusion and/or injection of medications as part of treatment and for pain relief
Contraindications to Elbow Arthrocentesis
Infection of skin or deeper tissues at the anticipated site of needle insertion
If possible, an alternate, uninfected puncture site should be used. However, acutely inflamed joints may be generally warm, tender, and erythematous, thus mimicking extra-articular infection and making it hard to find an uninvolved insertion site. Ultrasonography may be helpful; visualization of a joint effusion by ultrasonography can reinforce the decision to do arthrocentesis despite surrounding erythema. NOTE: If infectious arthritis is strongly suspected, arthrocentesis should be done regardless of erythema or negative ultrasonographic results because joint infection must not be missed.
Severe bleeding diathesis, which may need to be corrected before arthrocentesis; routine therapeutic anticoagulation is not a contraindication, particularly if infection is suspected
Prosthetic joint, which is susceptible to iatrogenic infection; prosthetic joint arthrocentesis should generally be done by an orthopedic surgeon
Complications of Elbow Arthrocentesis
Complications are uncommon and include
Damage to tendon, nerve, or blood vessels (traumatic tap)
Equipment for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Antiseptic solution (eg, chlorhexidine, povidone iodine, isopropyl alcohol), sterile gauze, and gloves
Local anesthetic (eg, 1% lidocaine, 25- to 30-gauge needle, 3- to 5-mL syringe)
For joint aspiration, a 25- to 38-mm (1- to 1.5-inch) 20- or 22-gauge needle and a 10- to 20-mL syringe
Appropriate containers for collection of fluid for laboratory tests (eg, cell count, crystals, cultures)
For intra-articular therapeutic injection, a syringe containing a corticosteroid (eg, triamcinolone acetonide 20 to 30 mg or methylprednisolone acetate 40 mg) and/or a long-acting anesthetic (eg, 0.25% bupivacaine), a 23- to 25-gauge needle, and a hemostat to help switch syringes, if needed
Additional Considerations for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Sterile technique is necessary to prevent microbial contamination of both the joint space and the aspirated synovial fluid.
Relevant Anatomy for Elbow Arthrocentesis
The needle is inserted just distal to the lateral epicondyle, in the depression felt between the lateral epicondyle, ulna, and radial head.
Arthrocentesis of the elbow
The ulnohumeral joint is entered while the patient’s elbow is flexed at 60° and the wrist is pronated. The needle enters the joint’s lateral surface, between the lateral humeral epicondyle, the ulna, and the radial head.
Positioning for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Position the patient supine, sitting, or semi-recumbent with the elbow flexed to 90° and the forearm pronated with the palm down.
Step-by-Step Description of Elbow Arthrocentesis
Palpate the lateral elbow to identify the radial head, which can be felt rotating when the patient alternately pronates and supinates the wrist. Also identify the lateral epicondyle and the olecranon process. Joint effusion, if palpable, can be felt between these three landmarks. If desired, mark the needle entry site with a skin-marking pen or preferably an indentation (before cleansing the skin).
Rest the elbow on an underpad. Prepare the area with a skin-cleansing agent, such as chlorhexidine or povidone iodine, then use an alcohol wipe to remove the agent.
Place a wheal of local anesthetic over the needle entry site using a 25- to 30-gauge needle.
Palpate the landmarks.
Aspirate the joint using a 20- or 22-gauge needle on a 10- to 20-mL syringe. Aiming toward the medial epicondyle, insert and advance the needle. Pull back on the plunger as you advance. Synovial fluid will enter the syringe when the joint is entered.
If the needle hits bone, retract almost to the skin surface and then redirect at a different angle.
Drain all fluid from the joint.
If intra-articular medications (eg, anesthetic, corticosteroid) are to be given, hold the hub of the needle motionless (using a hemostat if available) while removing the synovial fluid-containing syringe and replace it with the medication-containing syringe. If the needle has remained in place in the joint space, there will be no resistance to medication injection.
After injecting a corticosteroid, move the joint through full range of motion to distribute the medication throughout the joint.
Inspect the fluid for blood and fat. Transfer synovial fluid to tubes and other transport media for synovial fluid analysis Synovial fluid examination Some musculoskeletal disorders affect primarily the joints, causing arthritis. Others affect primarily the bones (eg, fractures, Paget disease of bone, tumors), muscles or other extra-articular... read more .
Apply an adhesive bandage or sterile dressing.
© Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved. This video is for personal informational use. Users are prohibited from copying, reproducing, licensing, subscribing, selling, leasing or distributing this video.
Aftercare for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Ice, elevation, and oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help relieve pain.
Apply compression if there is bleeding from the procedure site.
If an intra-articular anesthetic has been given, limited joint activity should be prescribed for 4 to 8 hours.
If an intra-articular corticosteroid has been given, the joint should be rested for about 24 to 48 hours.
If the patient has increased erythema, pain, and/or swelling > 12 hours after the procedure, the joint should be examined for possible infection.
Warnings and Common Errors for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Carefully ensure optimal positioning before joint puncture.
Allow adequate time for local anesthesia to take effect before proceeding.
To avoid damaging the synovium and articular cartilage, do not advance the needle against resistance and do not move the needle once it has begun draining synovial fluid.
If the needle tip must be relocated, first withdraw it almost to the skin surface then redirect; do not try to change the angle of insertion while a needle is embedded in tissue.
Tips and Tricks for Elbow Arthrocentesis
Consider doing ultrasonography if there is no obvious large effusion.
Note also that warmth, tenderness, and erythema may overlie an acutely inflamed arthritic joint, mimicking extra-articular infection.
When trying to differentiate infectious arthritis from infection of the overlying structures (a contraindication to arthrocentesis Contraindications Arthrocentesis of the elbow is the process of puncturing the elbow joint with a needle to withdraw synovial fluid. The lateral approach is described. (See also Evaluation of the Patient with... read more ), infectious arthritis is more likely with the following:
Circumferential joint pain and capsule tenderness
Pain with both gentle, passive motion and with active joint motion
When inspecting fluid, consider the following:
The hemarthrosis of a traumatic tap tends to be nonuniformly bloody and tends to clot.
Drugs Mentioned In This Article
|Drug Name||Select Trade|
|Betasept, Chlorostat, Hibiclens, Oro Clense , Peridex, Periogard, PerioRx , Perisol|
|7T Lido, Akten , ALOCANE, ANASTIA, AneCream, Anestacon, Aspercreme with Lidocaine, Astero , BenGay, Blue Tube, Blue-Emu, CidalEaze, DermacinRx Lidogel, DermacinRx Lidorex, DERMALID, Ela-Max, GEN7T, Glydo, Gold Bond, LidaMantle, Lidocan, Lidocare, Lidoderm, LidoDose, LidoDose Pediatric, Lidofore, LidoHeal-90, LIDO-K , Lidomar , Lidomark, LidoReal-30, LidoRx, Lidosense 4 , Lidosense 5, Lidosol, Lidosol-50, LIDO-SORB, Lidotral, Lidovix L, LIDOZION, Lidozo, LMX 4, LMX 4 with Tegaderm, LMX 5, LTA, Lydexa, Moxicaine, Numbonex, ReadySharp Lidocaine, RectaSmoothe, RectiCare, Salonpas Lidocaine, Senatec, Solarcaine, SUN BURNT PLUS, Tranzarel, Xyliderm, Xylocaine, Xylocaine Dental, Xylocaine in Dextrose, Xylocaine MPF, Xylocaine Topical, Xylocaine Topical Jelly, Xylocaine Topical Solution, Xylocaine Viscous, Zilactin-L, Zingo, Zionodi, ZTlido|
|Aristocort, Aristocort A, Aristocort Forte, Aristocort HP, Aristo-Pak, Aristospan, Azmacort, Children's Nasacort Allergy 24HR Nasal Spray, Cinalog, Cinolar, Flutex, Hexatrione, Kenalog, Kenalog in Orabase, Kenalog-10, Kenalog-40, Kenalog-80, Nasacort, Nasacort AQ, Oralone, SP Rx 228 , Tac-3 , Triacet , Triamonide , Trianex , Triderm , Triesence, XIPERE, Zilretta|
|A-Methapred, Depmedalone-40, Depmedalone-80 , Depo-Medrol, Medrol, Medrol Dosepak, Solu-Medrol|
|Marcaine, Marcaine Spinal, POSIMIR, Sensorcaine, Sensorcaine MPF , Xaracoll|