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Joint Incision and Drainage


Joint incision and drainage is surgery to open an infected joint and drain the pus.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Anesthesia is used to make you comfortable during surgery. The kind of anesthesia used depends on the joint that will be drained:
    • General anesthesia is used to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may get anesthesia through your IV. You may breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.
    • Regional anesthesia is put into an IV to numb a joint area in an arm or leg.
    • Local anesthesia is a put into the skin around your joint to numb the area. You may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery.
  • Antibiotics will be given in your IV to help treat the joint infection.

During your surgery:

An incision will be made in the skin over your infected joint. Your surgeon will cut the tissue around the joint and open it widely. He or she will then remove the pus and dead tissue. The joint will be rinsed with sterile fluid. Depending on the type of joint, your surgeon will put in a drain or pack the wound with gauze. The wound will be closed with stitches and covered with a bandage.

After your surgery:

  • A splint may be placed around your joint. This will help prevent movement so your joint can heal.
  • A bandage will cover your wound to keep the area clean and dry. Healthcare providers will change the bandage and check the wound often.
  • Joint movement is started as soon as the infection is under control. Healthcare providers will help you with exercises to improve your range of motion and your muscle strength. Depending on which joint is affected, you will slowly be allowed to put more weight on the joint.
  • Medicines may be given to relieve pain or to fight the infection.


You may need more surgery if the infection does not clear up completely.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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