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Joint Incision and Drainage


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


The week before your surgery:

  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about any allergies you have. Tell him or her if you have ever had an allergic reaction to antibiotics or anesthesia.
  • Tell your provider about all the medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicines before the procedure, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.

The night before your surgery:

Follow your healthcare provider's directions for what to eat and drink.

The day of your surgery:

  • Take only the medicines your healthcare provider told you to take.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • You will be given anesthesia to make you comfortable during surgery. The kind of anesthesia used depends on the joint that will be drained. General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. 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.


What will happen:

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. 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.


  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or the flu.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.


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

Care Agreement

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

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.