Therapeutic joint injections are a minimally invasive treatment option used to relieve pain caused by inflammatory joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis and gout. Corticosteroids, used to reduce inflammation and minimize pain as a result, are injected into the affected joint. Injecting steroids into one or two local areas of inflammation allows doctors to deliver a high dose of medication directly to the problem area. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. This medication only affects the targeted area and does not usually cause side effects in most patients.
What to Expect:
After local anesthesia, a needle is maneuvered into the area of interest under fluoroscopic guidance. Correct needle placement is confirmed by using a combination of imaging and injection of a small amount of iodinated contrast. A combination of a short-acting anesthetic and an intermediate to long acting corticosteroid are then injected. The anesthetic can provide immediate pain relief lasting 4-6 hours while the corticosteroid takes effect approximately 1-2 days after the injection, reaching maximum effectiveness within 5-7 days. The duration of the pain relief varies depending on the severity and reversibility of the patient’s condition. If therapeutic effect is achieved, several injections per year can be performed with few long term consequences.
Our musculoskeletal radiologists are well trained in performing diagnostic and therapeutic injections of multiple joints including:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the exam?
Joint injections are commonly performed to give pain relief of problematic joints. Reducing joint inflammation can help preserve the joint structure and function. Typically a corticosteroid is combined with an analgesic for maximum effectiveness.
Why Are Steroids Injected?
When doctors give steroids by mouth or intravenously, they cannot be sure an adequate amount of the steroid will eventually reach the problem area. An injection insures the medication is applied to the immediate area of concern.
How is the exam performed?
A radiologist will cleanse the area of interest, inject a local anesthetic and then insert an injection needle into the affected joint space. A slight amount of x-ray dye, or contrast, is injected to ensure correct needle placement. When placement is confirmed, the medications are injected.
Are there any restrictions after the procedure?
No, you can resume normal activities to your degree of tolerance. Expect to have mild tightness or a full feeling in the joint space from the medications for a few days.
How long will the injection last?
The length of time for relief varies from patient to patient, however many patients have discomfort relieved for up to 6-8 weeks.