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joint aspiration

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Alternative Names
synovial fluid analysis, synovial biopsy

Synovial fluid is a liquid found in small amounts within the joints. This liquid is produced by the membrane lining the capsule of a joint, known as the synovial membrane. During a joint aspiration, the synovial fluid is drawn out using a needle, and looked at under a microscope.

Who is a candidate for the test?
A joint aspiration is done to help diagnose joint problems in a person with joint pain, swelling, or deformity.

How is the test performed?
A joint aspiration can be done in a doctor's office. local anaesthesia is injected into the joint to numb the area. The area is then cleaned with an antiseptic. A sterile needle is inserted into the joint space. A small amount of the synovial fluid is withdrawn and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

The procedure usually takes about 10 minutes. The only discomfort usually occurs when the Local anaesthesia is injected.

What is involved in preparation for the test?
The person may be asked to fast for 6 hours before the test. This is because food may interfere with the test results.

What do the test results mean?
Normal synovial fluid is clear and light tan in colour. Abnormal results may indicate:
  • infection
  • injury to the joint
  • arthritis, or inflammation or swelling of a joint
  • toxic synovitis, or inflammation of the synovial membrane
  • a tumour or growth involving the joint
  • increased fluid within the joint
  • gout, which is a form of arthritis caused by deposit of uric acid crytals into the joint
  • systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease in which normal tissue is destroyed by the body's own immune defences
Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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