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Effectiveness of aspiration in knee joint effusion management: a prospective randomized controlled study



Knee effusion is a common symptom in various knee disorders of both traumatic and non-traumatic aetiology. Although intra-articular aspiration is a widespread treatment approach, its beneficial effect has not been confirmed by a randomized controlled study. The purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of joint aspiration in acute knee effusion, in relation to traumatic or non-traumatic aetiology.


One hundred and sixty-seven consecutive patients with acute knee joint effusion were allocated in a randomized controlled fashion into two groups. In the first group, joint aspiration was performed, while in the second group, no aspiration was performed. Range of motion, pain relief, use of analgesics and oedema were evaluated post management. The Knee Society Score and the International Knee Documentation Committee Subjective Evaluation Form were also obtained. In addition, a subgroup analysis of our results in relation to the presence of trauma or not was performed.


Aspiration exhibited a temporary improvement in all clinical parameters evaluated, especially in the post-traumatic effusion. However, this improvement lasted only for the first week, due to the early re-accumulation of the effusion. There was no difference between the different groups regarding the clinical outcome in neither trauma or non-trauma patients at the end of the follow-up period. Aspiration aided in earlier establishment of the diagnosis in the non-trauma cases of effusion.


Aspiration resulted in only temporary improvement of the outcome in the treatment of traumatic or not traumatic knee effusion. Aspiration is suggested in effusions of unknown origin in order to establish the diagnosis and for immediate clinical relief. However, aspiration should be performed with consideration in the presence of trauma.

Level of evidence

Therapeutic study, Level I.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Anastasios D. Georgoulis.

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Paschos, N.K., Giotis, D., Abuhemoud, K. et al. Effectiveness of aspiration in knee joint effusion management: a prospective randomized controlled study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 22, 226–232 (2014).

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  • Knee
  • Effusion
  • Oedema
  • Aspiration
  • Trauma
  • Treatment