Image-guided injections into joints
What are image-guided joint injections?
An image-guided joint injection is an injection, of local anaesthetic that gives rapid pain relief and steroid to ease your pain and reduce swelling, into your joints with the aid of x-rays, ultrasound or CT guidance for precise needle placement.
When are image-guided joint injections recommended?
Image-guided joint injections are recommended to help with the diagnosis and treatment of joint pain.
They are usually given to treat swollen or painful joints, ligaments or tendons that have not responded to conservative treatments such as physiotherapy and pain-relieving medication. Often injections are used in conjunction with physiotherapy.
Diagnostically the injection helps determine whether the pain or other symptoms that you are experiencing are arising from a particular joint. This can help guide your doctor regarding any further investigations or treatment.
What happens during image-guided joint injections?
An image-guided joint injection is a day case procedure taking around 15 to 30 minutes. You will be awake during your injection. A local anaesthetic may be given.
Your consultant will use imaging technology to guide the injection into the exact area needing pain relief. They may use:
- CT guided injections – in your facet joint (spine) and sacroiliac joint.
- X-ray guided injections – for your wrist and hand, hip, ankle and foot.
- Ultrasound guided injections – in your shoulder, hip, hand and wrist, knee, ankle and foot joints and tendons.
A very fine needle will be guided into your joint and a combination of steroid and anaesthetic is injected.
Benefits of image-guided joint injections
The benefits of image-guided joint injections are:
- To confirm the injected joint as the site of pain.
- Accurately inject steroid into your painful joint.
- Reduce your pain and enable you to have physiotherapy.
- Offer short to medium term pain relief without undergoing surgery.
Complications of image guided joint injections
Image-guided joint injections are a minimally invasive procedure and adverse reactions are rare. However, they can include:
- An allergic reaction.
- Infection at the injection site.
- Bleeding into the joint.
After image-guided joint injections
You will need someone to drive you home after your injection.
The local anaesthetic injected into your joint may provide temporary pain relief but it will wear off. It can take 24 to 36 hours for the steroid to become effective and you may feel an increase in pain between the anaesthetic wearing off and the steroid taking effect. It’s recommended that you rest and take over the counter pain relief during this period.
How long will the pain relief last?
The duration of the pain relief is variable. Most injections give relief for three to six months, although this is sometimes longer. Injections can usually be repeated if necessary.