Local effects of intra-articular corticosteroids

Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Apr;29(4):347-56. doi: 10.1007/s10067-009-1357-y. Epub 2010 Jan 26.


Intra-articular corticosteroid injection (IACI) is a very popular procedure. In this review, we wanted to review all that had been published about local effects of IACIs. English literature search was made through PubMed using the terms intra-articular and local effect. Effects on subjective, functional, structural, cellular, humoral, molecular, and imaging aspects were included. Also, all local adverse effects were documented. The main beneficial effect of IACI is pain relief. The duration of this effect is variable and depends on underlying disease, type of disease, amount of structural damage, type of IACI, dose of IACI, presence of joint effusion, level of inflammatory mediators, emptiness of joint effusion, availability of imaging, and others. At large, inflammatory problems had higher rate of favorable response in terms of pain and function. IACI at the knee joint in juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients resulted in remission for >6 months in >80% of the patients with a mean duration of approximately 1.2 years, while in the osteoarthritic knee there was a pain relief for 3 weeks only and in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) knee for 8 weeks. There was no joint space loss at the knee joint following multiple IACI in osteoarthritis and also no increase in cartilage or bone erosions in RA following a single IACI. IACI guide imaging is important in achieving better results in particular joints. Joint infection rate is very low. Other adverse effects included intra-articular and periarticular calcifications, cutaneous atrophy, cutaneous depigmentation, avascular necrosis, rapid destruction of the femoral head, acute synovitis, Charcot's arthropathy, tendinopathy, Nicolau's syndrome, and joint dislocation. IACI is associated with a wide range of local effects. Subjective and functional favorable response is prominent mainly in juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients. Adverse effects are either rare or insignificant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Arthritis / drug therapy*
  • Bursitis / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular / adverse effects


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones