HomeGeneral MedicineSynovial (Joint) Fluid Analysis: Test, Purpose, Procedure, Results and Risk

Synovial (Joint) Fluid Analysis: Test, Purpose, Procedure, Results and Risk

Overview 

Synovial fluid is a thick liquid that lubricates your joints and keeps them moving smoothly.

Healthcare professionals use synovial fluid analysis as the synovial fluid may be affected in Joint conditions like arthritis and gout, infections, and bleeding disorders. A sample of this fluid is taken during a procedure called arthrocentesis.

Synovial fluid helps keep the joint lubricated and move smoothly. This fluid is present in all joints, including the knees and hips. When people have painful joints, the doctor may recommend a synovial fluid analysis to determine the cause of these symptoms. These analyses can help the doctor in diagnosing and monitoring:  

  • Infections  
  • Inflammatory conditions, including gout or RA  
  • Degenerative diseases, including osteoarthritis  
  • Bleeding disorders   

This blog comprehensively explains synovial fluid analysis, including procedure, the results, and risks. 

What is synovial fluid? 

Synovial fluid is the thick liquid that lubricates the joints and helps them move smoothly. This fluid also protects the ends of bones and decreases friction during joint movements. 

What is a synovial fluid analysis? 

The synovial fluid analysis includes different tests that the doctor can use to diagnose problems with the joints. Common health conditions, including arthritis, gout, infections, and bleeding disorders, may change the synovial fluid’s appearance and feel. The doctors perform a procedure known as arthrocentesis to draw a sample of this fluid to help them determine the cause of the symptoms. 

What is the purpose of a synovial fluid analysis? 

If there is pain, inflammation, swelling in a joint, or if there is a collection of fluid without a known cause, taking a fluid sample can help the doctor diagnose the exact problem causing the inflammation. However, if the patient or the doctor is aware of the cause of the joint swelling, a synovial fluid analysis may not be required. 

Some of the conditions that the doctor can diagnose with this procedure include infection, gout, arthritis, and bleeding. In some instances, removing a small amount of fluid can help relieve pain in the affected joint for people with excess fluid. Sometimes synovial fluid analysis is used to examine and monitor symptoms in people with known joint disorders. 

How is a synovial fluid analysis performed? 

The doctors may perform the synovial fluid analysis on people suffering from joint inflammation, redness, swelling, or injury. The study helps diagnose the condition. The procedure is performed in the doctor’s clinic. The doctors use medications to numb the area during the procedure, and the healthcare provider inserts a needle to draw the fluid into the syringe.  

The doctor will then send the fluid sample to the laboratory for examination. A lab technician will observe the fluid’s colour and thickness and analyse the cells with a microscope. The technician also looks for crystals, bacteria and checks for glucose, proteins, uric acid, and lactic dehydrogenase (an enzyme that increases in cases of inflammation and tissue damage). 

What are the risks of synovial fluid analysis? 

A synovial fluid test carries minimal risks, with the most common ones being bleeding or infection in the joint. Although complications from this procedure are rare, it is normal to experience soreness or stiffness in the joint. 

What do the test results mean? 

Normal synovial fluid is colourless, transparent, pale yellow, stringy, and free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Abnormal synovial fluid can be cloudy and thicker or thinner than the normal fluid. Cloudiness could mean crystals, microorganisms, or excess white blood cells in the synovial fluid.  

When people suffer from gout, the fluid may contain crystals. When the fluid is less stringy, it could be a symptom of inflammation. Excess fluid in the joint can be an indication of osteoarthritis. Reddish-coloured fluid could mean blood is present, suggesting a bleeding injury in the joint or a more severe bleeding problem throughout the body, such as haemophilia. Absence or ineffective clotting factors can be due to haemophilia. Cloudy fluid, excess fluid, or blood in the fluid are all signs of a problem in and around the joint. The issues include gout, arthritis, infection, injury to the joint, and autoimmune disorders.  

Conclusion 

Synovial fluid analysis is a procedure that doctors use to diagnose several joint-related conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. It also hjelps rule out infection as the cause of symptoms. The signs of abnormality in the synovial fluid can include: 

  • The abnormal appearance of synovial fluid. 
  • Variations in its chemical makeup. 
  • The presence of crystals, bacteria or blood 

The doctor may use synovial fluid analysis and other diagnostic tests to determine the cause of joint pain and inflammation. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. Can people take this test at home? 

Synovial fluid analysis is only performed in a professional medical setting since the fluid cannot be drawn at home. 

2. How to prepare for this test? 

People don’t need to do anything in preparation for the test, but they must let the doctor know if they are taking blood thinners. 

3. What happens after the procedure? 

To minimize swelling and joint pain, people can apply ice or cold packs to the joint for 24 – 36 hours after the test. People can probably resume their normal activities after the procedure, depending on the exact problem. Patients should speak to the doctor to determine the most appropriate activities.

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