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culture of joint fluid

Alternative Names
culture of joint aspirate

A culture of joint fluid, or aspirate, can identify bacteria or organisms in joint fluid that may be causing an infection in a particular joint. The test is normally done when a joint is swollen, painful, or appears to be infected.

Who is a candidate for the test?
This test is normally performed to help diagnose arthritis, or an infection or tumour in a joint.

How is the test performed?
First, a sample of fluid is taken from the swollen joint. A sterile needle is inserted through the skin into the joint. A small amount of fluid is withdrawn from the joint. This sample is then taken to the laboratory for testing. Usually, the fluid is then placed on special culture media to see if bacteria or other micro-organisms will grow.

What is involved in preparation for the test?
A person should request specific instructions from his or her doctor.

What do the test results mean?
Fluid in a joint is usually sterile. This means that no micro-organisms are present. If the joint fluid contains micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, they will grow in culture in the laboratory. This allows a microbiologist to identify the micro-organisms and design a course of therapy to treat the infection. For example, a bacterial infection may be treated with antibiotics.

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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