In cases of rheumatoid arthritis of the elbow, cortisone injections have been found to temporarily help ease the pain and swelling. Corticosteroids, also known as glucocorticoids, refer to a group of naturally occurring human hormones. These hormones, often referred to as “cortisone”, can be artificially produced in the laboratory and purified for injection into inflamed or arthritic joints, resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or trauma. For rheumatoid arthritis of the elbow, a cortisone injection can help reduce the inflammation for as long as 2-3 months. Before administering the injection of a corticosteroid, your doctor may try to remove fluid from the elbow by inserting a needle into the joint and pulling the fluid out.
Following the injection of cortisone into the elbow, there may occasionally be increased pain secondary to an inflammatory reaction to the injected medication. These reactions usually occur within the first 24 to 48 hours after the injection; ice, elevation, and analgesic medications usually lead to improvement. Post injection pain greater than expected, swelling and/or redness of the area around the elbow or the development of a fever should raise concerns about an infection and be reported immediately to your doctor. Rapid diagnosis and treatment is essential to the effective management of an infected elbow.