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Joint Incision and Drainage


Joint incision and drainage is surgery to open an infected joint and drain the pus out. It is also called an I and D.


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 medicine used to make you comfortable during the surgery. Healthcare providers will work with you to decide which type of anesthesia is best for you:
    • 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 in the arm or leg that has the infected joint. A pressure cuff is first put on your arm or leg. After the cuff is tightened, the medicine is put into the IV. The cuff keeps the medicine in the arm or leg so you will not have pain.
    • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine put into the skin around your joint. It is used to numb the area and dull the pain. 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 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. A splint may be placed if your infected joint was on your arm or leg.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room.

  • A drain is a thin rubber tube put into your joint to drain fluid from the wound. The drain is taken out when your surgeon says it is okay.
  • 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.
  • Food and drink after surgery will start slowly to prevent an upset stomach. You may be given ice chips at first. Then you will get liquids such as water, broth, juice, and clear soft drinks. If your stomach does not become upset, you may then be given soft foods, such as ice cream and applesauce. Once you can eat soft foods easily, you may slowly begin to eat solid foods.
  • 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 bear more weight. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let healthcare providers know you need help. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicine helps take away or decrease your pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a healthcare provider when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.
    • Antibiotics help treat the joint infection.


You may bleed more than expected during surgery. You may need more surgery if the infection does not clear up completely. If you do not have surgery, the infection may spread. Your joint may become damaged or destroyed. The infection could spread into your bone or throughout your body. This can be life-threatening.


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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