Frequency of successful intra-articular puncture of finger joints: influence of puncture position and physician experience

W Pichler, W Grechenig, S Grechenig, F Anderhuber, H Clement, A M Weinberg
Rheumatology 2008, 47 (10): 1503-5

OBJECTIVE: Physicians and specialists routinely perform IA punctures and injections on patients with joint injuries, chronic arthritis and arthrosis to release joint effusion or to inject drugs. The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequencies of intra- and peri-articular cannula positioning during this procedure.

METHODS: A total of 300 cadaveric finger joints were injected with a methyl blue-containing solution and subsequently dissected to distinguish intra- from peri-articular injections. To assess the influence of puncture position on successful injection, half of the joints were injected dorsally and the other half dorso-radially. To assess the importance of practical experience for a positive outcome, half of the injections were performed by an inexperienced resident and half by a skilled specialist.

RESULTS: The overall frequency of occurrence of peri-articular injections was much higher than expected (overall: 23%, specialist: 15%, resident: 32%) The failure rate was significantly higher than the average with the joints of the little finger and the DIP joints of each phalanx.

CONCLUSIONS: Even skilled specialists cannot guarantee to insert the cannula into the joint in every case. Unintended peri-articular drug injection moreover may affect the surrounding ligaments or tendons, leading to serious complications. Correct positioning of the needle in the joint may be facilitated by fluoroscopy in doubtful cases.

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