Incision and Drainage of a Joint

What is incision and drainage of a joint?

Incision and drainage of a joint is surgery to remove fluid and other material from an infected joint.

When is it used?

Removing the fluid and other material from the infected joint may reduce pain and swelling and prevent damage to the bones and other tissues. It also helps prevent spread of the infection.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Make plans for your care and recovery after you have the procedure. Find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure. Allow for time to rest and try to find other people to help with your day-to-day tasks while you recover.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Some products may increase your risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. It’s best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be given a regional or general anesthetic to keep you from feeling pain. Regional anesthesia numbs part of your body while you stay awake. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep.

Your provider will make a cut into the space around the joint, drain the infection, and remove damaged tissue. Your provider may then close the cut or leave it open to drain.

What happens after the procedure?

After the surgery you may stay in the hospital for a few days. You may be given pain medicine and antibiotics. You may need to have the procedure again before you leave the hospital.

You may go home with a dressing over the wound that needs to be changed. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions for how and when to change the dressing.

You may have a cast or splint on your arm or leg to limit its movement. When the cast or splint is removed, your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • Problems with anesthesia
  • New infection or bleeding
  • Damage to the joint, nerves, tendons, or blood vessels

Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-30
Last reviewed: 2013-07-19
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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