Corticosteroid joint injections for JIA

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If you have JIA that doesn’t get better with other drugs, and if only a few joints are affected, your doctor may suggest that you have corticosteroid joint injections. The corticosteroid is injected directly into the joints that are inflamed. This is also called an intra-articular injection.

Why are corticosteroid joint injections used?

Joint injections are helpful because the corticosteroid can be placed right into the inflamed joint. Because the medicine is put right where it needs to be, it does not travel through the rest of the body. Therefore, we do not see the same side effects that are seen with corticosteroids taken by mouth or IV.

The benefits of joint injections are:

  • They have a low risk of side effects
  • They work quickly to control active inflammation in a joint
  • The initial improvement in your symptoms is often dramatic. It occurs within days to a week following the joint injection
  • Injected joints may stay better for one to three months or even longer.

How are joint injections done?

Joint injection

Your rheumatologist will carefully inject the corticosteroid medication into your joint. This procedure can be done in a variety of ways, depending on your needs and what the doctor thinks.

Sometimes the joint injection may be done in the clinic or in a special procedure room. Sometimes it is done in an X-ray or ultrasound room. The X-ray or ultrasound is used to make sure the joint is injected correctly.

Your doctor may use a pain medication, called a local anaesthetic, to numb your skin before the injection. You might need a medicine called a sedative to help you relax for the joint injection procedure. If many joints need to be injected at one time, this may be done while you are asleep under general anaesthesia.

To learn more about joint injections, check out the following animation.

Which corticosteroids are injected into joints?

There are three corticosteroids that are used for joint injections.

Generic nameMost common brand nameHow it is givenHow the medication comesSide effects
Triamcinolone hexacetonideLederlonJoint injection 1-3 times per year, as neededInjection

Possible side effects

  • Risk of infection in joint (unusual if proper cleaning of skin and sterile techniques utilized)
  • Thinning of skin over joint injection site
  • Steroids injected into joints can sometimes be seen as deposits on X-rays (does not cause symptoms of pain or affect function of joint).
Triamcinolone acetonideKenalogJoint injection 1-3 times per year, as neededInjection
Methyl-prednisoloneDepo-MedrolJoint injection 1-3 times per year, as neededInjection

Important safety point about corticosteroid joint injection(s)

If, within 24 to 48 hours following a joint injection, you develop fever, redness, or increasing pain over the joint injection site, see your doctor immediately to ensure there is no infection in your joint.

Last updated: January 31st 2017