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Synovial Fluid Analysis

synovial fluid analysis, also called synovial fluid analysis, is a battery of tests performed on synovial (joint) fluid to help diagnose and treat joint-related abnormalities.

How the test is performed     

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

Precautions of synovial fluid analysis

synovial fluid analysis should not be performed on any patient who is uncooperative, especially if the patient cannot or will not keep the joint immobile throughout the procedure. Patients with certain infections should be excluded from the procedure, particularly those who have a local infection along the proposed needle track. The joint space should be accessible. Therefore, a poorly accessible joint space, such as in hip aspiration in an obese patient, should not be subject to this procedure.

Preparation for synovial fluid analysis

Glucose, or sugar, in the joint can be a signal of arthritis. If the clinician will be doing a glucose test, the patient will be asked to fast for 6-12 hours preceding the procedure. If not, there is no special preparation required for a  synovial fluid analysis.

Aftercare of synovial fluid analysis

Some post-procedural pain may be experienced. For this reason, the patient should arrange to be driven home by someone else. Aftercare of the joints will depend on the results of the analysis.


Risks of synovial fluid analysis

While  synovial fluid analysis is generally a safe procedure, especially when performed on a large, easily accessible joint, such as the knee, some risks are possible. Some of the complications to the procedure, although rare, include infection at the site of the needle stick, an accumulation of blood (hematoma) formation, local pain, injury to cartilage, tendon rupture, and nerve damage.

Normal results of synovial fluid analysis

The results of a normal  synovial fluid analysis include fluid of a clear or pale-yellow color and the absence of bacteria, fungus, and other cells, such as white blood cells.

Abnormal results of synovial fluid analysis

The results of an abnormal  synovial fluid analysis include fluid that is turbid, or cloudy. Also, white blood cells and other blood cells may be found, from which the clinician can make a diagnosis and arrive at a treatment for the joint problem. An abnormal result can indicate an infection caused by a bacteria, or tuberculosis. Or, there might be inflammation that is caused by gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis.


This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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