First Joint Aspiration: I did not die.


Today I am typing with one hand because yesterday I had my first joint aspiration and cortisone injection into my left pointer finger. And yes, it was just as much fun as it sounds like, maybe even more.

At my rheumatologist appointment last month, he mentioned that he may be doing this at this month’s appointment if my finger didn’t look better.  Actually, he mentioned he might be doing this on two fingers so I guess I lucked out? 


So, as he was examining my hands I wasn’t surprised when he said he needed to do one.  I figured that it would be one of those things like “sure, let’s do one.  Talk to the scheduler and we’ll set you up to come back for it.”  That way, I’d have at least a few days to either wrap my brain around it or find a way to get out of it.  So when I said that  I would be out of town the rest of the week but could do it next week I was a bit surprised when he responded ‘that’s great that you’ll be out of town- because we’re doing this right now.”  He stood up, fetched some supplies out of the cabinet and started prepping the needles.

“Put your hand on the table and sit on the stool.”


He pushed and pushed on my finger with his hands, I assume trying to assess where he was going to go in from, which really really hurt. 

Then he finished up his prep work- one large syringe with a large needle that he would use for the aspiration and one smaller syringe and needle that he filled with a whitish liquid (cortisone).

“Ok, I’m ready.  You ready?”

NO!  I’m NOT ready.  I don’t let ANYONE touch my left hand so WHY ON EARTH would you EVER think that I’m ready for you to stick a needle in it? Being “ready” for this to happen is a day that will never come.  The better question would’ve  been “have you come to terms with the fact that I am the expert here and this really is the best thing for you” or “are you sure you won’t haul off and pop me when the needle goes in?”

I quietly shook my head yes and told myself to look away.

He sprayed my finger with the numbing agent and I didn’t feel the needle go in.

Gosh, those are some great mini blinds.  Are they plastic or are they wooden?  I prefer wooden but plastic is more affordable and in some cases easier to keep clean.  And a lot of the plastic blinds can be made to look like wood.  I wonder if I could afford plantation shutters right now.  I like plantation shutters. Wow, I’m doing it.  This isn’t so baa……  WHY THE HELL ARE YOU DIGGING AROUND IN THERE? Mini blinds, mini blinds, MINI BLINDS.  IT FEELS LIKE THE NEEDLE IS COMING OUT THE OTHER SIDE,.  Great, then I can put an earring through it- maybe a bull ring- as if my finger doesn’t look freakish enough- LET’S PIERCE THE DAMN THING.

“Ok, I’m done aspirating.  Now the cortisone.”

Ok, aspiration kinda sucked but I hear cortisone feels great once it’s done.

HOLY HELL.  I THINK MY FINGER IS GOING TO EXPLODE.  No really, actual explosion.  Joint, finger meat, and blood- coming at you in just a minute.  OH MY GOD. 

“Please stop.”

“It’s ok, I’m done.”

“I can’t bend my finger at all.  Is it supposed to do that?”

“Yes, I couldn’t aspirate as much as I wanted so you can’t bend your finger because it’s full of cortisone.  It’ll go down quickly.  Let me get you another bandaid.”

As I stood up, I realized that there was visible sweat on the table from where I had my other hand resting. 

“So, this will go down- it’ll probably be a little tender for 48 hours and you probably won’t be able to bend it for the rest of the day.  I couldn’t aspirate as much as I wanted which probably means that the joint lining is now really thick.  The cortisone should make it go down though so we’ll look at it again next time.  We may have to do it again, on this finger and possibly on the other one.  But I won’t make you do the other one today.”

Damn right you won’t.

And, drama queen tendencies aside, I don’t think it’ll be as scary next time.

15 responses »

  1. OMG.
    (prays furiously never to be made to do this.)
    You are SO brave. And SO cool. You’re my hero, Amandajohn.
    Many years ago, in Germany, my internist begged me to let him draw fluid from my flared knee. That knee was so incredibly painful I couldn’t walk on it and couldn’t bare anything (or anyone!) touching it. All I wanted was drugs. Strong drugs. And I chickened out, BIG time. I sorta understood why he wanted to do it, but I just … couldn’t. If he’d insisted, I’d have hopped out of there on one leg as fast as I could go. He never asked again.
    (sighs shakily) I guess, being older and wiser now, I’d do it if it came to that. But OMG.

    • As much as I freaked out about it after the fact, two days out the finger looks and feels much better than it has in months…That being said,I still think the whole thing completely sucked!

  2. Holy god, I hope to hell I never have to go through that. I can’t even breathe properly right now….

    I am so sorry you had to go through that…Oh my. I hope the cortisone calms down the finger soon and takes care of the other finger to boot. I will pray really hard for you – even though I am not at all a religious person!

    🙂 🙂 🙂 L

    P.S. I figured you needed at least three smiley faces!

  3. oy!!!!! mini blinds mini blinds mini blinds….hysterical, though not, but if I ever get this done, that is going to be my mantra! I hope it feels better quickly!

  4. “one large syringe with a large needle” That is where I started twinging. It sounds WORSE than my Humira injections and I twinge every time I remember I am due to take one. YOU ARE SO BRAVE. I am not sure I could I have endured that.

  5. I was a little kid when I had my last joint aspiration, and they actually gave me a general anaesthetic for it! So, all I remember is how awesome it was to wake up with knees that looked like knees again.

    You were VERY brave, especially as you weren’t expecting it to happen right then and there! I’d have been more than a little nervous. I’m glad you got this first one over with and I think you’re right – it’ll get easier.

  6. I have one aspiration and it was so bad I almost fainted. They made me lay down and then gave me a Coke to try and raise my BP because it crashed from shock.
    I hope you feel better soon!

  7. SOOOO im guessing if they have to do this to ALL 8 of my toes I most likely wont be able to walk ?
    They are going to have to do something to 3 of them soon i know that and aspiration has been thrown around ! OH WHAT FUN !!! Damn !

  8. Pingback: Cortisone Injection: Take 2 | All Flared Up: An Arthritis Blog

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