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Alternative Names Return to topJoint fluid analysis; Joint fluid aspiration
Definition Return to top
Synovial fluid analysis is a group of tests that examine joint (synovial) fluid. The tests help diagnose and treat joint-related problems.
How the Test is Performed Return to top
To obtain the fluid for analysis, a sterile needle is inserted into the joint space through skin that has been specially cleaned. Once in the joint, fluid is aspirated through the needle into a sterile syringe.
Synovial fluid is normally a viscous (thick), straw colored substance found in small amounts in joints, bursae, and tendon sheaths. In the laboratory, the fluid is initially analyzed for color and clarity. It is then examined microscopically for cells (red and white cells), crystals (in the case of gout), and bacteria. In addition, there may be a chemical analysis, and if infection is a concern, a sample will be cultured to see if any bacteria grow.
Abnormal joint fluid may look cloudy or abnormally thick.
How to Prepare for the Test Return to top
Normally, no special preparation is necessary, but contact your health care provider before the test to make sure.
How the Test Will Feel Return to top
Occasionally, the health care provider will first inject local anesthesia with a small needle, which will sting. The aspiration is done with a larger needle and may also cause some pain. The procedure usually lasts less than one minute.
Why the Test is Performed Return to top
The test can help diagnose the cause of pain or swelling in joints. Removing the fluid can also help relieve joint pain.
This test may be used to diagnose:
What Abnormal Results Mean Return to top
Blood in the joint may be a sign of injury inside the joint or a body-wide bleeding problem. An excess amount of normal synovial fluid can also be a sign of osteoarthritis.
Risks Return to top
Considerations Return to top
Ice or cold packs may be applied to the joint for 24 to 36 hours after the test to reduce the swelling and joint pain. Depending on the exact problem, you can probably resume your normal activities after the procedure. Talk to your health care provider to determine what activity is most appropriate for you.Update Date: 5/6/2007 Updated by: Thomas N. Joseph, MD, Private Practice specializing in Orthopaedics, subspecialty Foot and Ankle, Camden Bone & Joint, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.