Synovial Fluid Analysis
IntroductionSynovial fluid or joint fluid is physiologic collection of lubricant fluid within a joint space. It acts as source of nutrition for surrounding structures including cartilage, meniscus, labrum etc.Synovial fluid is ultrafiltrate of blood plasma and is primarily composed of proteoglycan 4 or lubricin, hyaluronan and phospholipids.
Purpose of Synovial Fluid Analysis
Physiologic changes in synovial fluid volume and content occur in response to trauma, inflammation, and bacterial, fungal, or viral penetrance. When patients present with acutely painful joints with suspicion of infection, inflammation or non-inflammatory causes of effusion, synovial fluid aspiration and analysis is imperative to aid in diagnosis and direct treatment modality.
One study guided by synovial fluid analysis found improvement in synovial fluid after isometric quadriceps exercise in patients with osteoarthritis.However, synovial fluid analysis is not done routinely but done to exclude other causes of inflammation such as infection.
For analysis, synovial fluid is collected by Arthrocentesis, the procedure to collect synovial fluid from joint by using a needle.
- Presentation of acute painful joint with surrounding warmth/erythema
- Suspicion of septic arthritis
- Suspicion for subacute or chronic periprosthetic joint infection
- Acute exacerbation of chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis or non-inflammatory arthritis, or
- Acute trauma with painful effusion
- A definitive diagnosis of gout or pseudogout
- Effusions of unknown etiology
- Removing excess fluid can help relieve pain in the affected joint
- Monitor known joint disorders.
- Inflammatory arthritis including
- Septic arthropathy
- Acute septic arthropathy
- Subacute or chronic septic arthropathy
- Periprosthetic joint infection
Expected Values per Category
|Polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs)||<25%||~25%||>50%||>75%|
|Glucose (mg/dL)||Nearly = to plasma||Nearly = to plasma||~25, lower than plasma||<25, even lower than plasma|
|Osteoarthritis||Rheumatoid arthritis||Bacterial infection|
|Trauma||Crystal synovitis||Rheumatoid arthritis|
|Avascular necrosis||Spondyloarthropathy||Crystal synovitis|
|Systemic lupus||Reactive arthritis|
|Acute rheumatic fever||Connective tissue disorders|
|Endocrine arthropathy||Acute rheumatic fever
Several factors can interfere with aspiration and therefore analysis of synovial fluid.
- Unsuccessful aspiration is common as synovium can clog the needle and interfere with sample collection
- Non-sterile technique can contaminate the collected fluid.
- It is important to remember that multiple etiologies can co-exist, i.e., the presence of gout does not rule out the presence of concomitant infection.
Potential complications include:
- Seeding a cutaneous infection within the joint
- Cartilage damage from needle insertion (rare)
- Pain at arthrocentesis site or local ecchymosis
- Bleeding and iatrogenic hemarthrosis
- Skin reaction to antiseptics or soft bandage adhesive
- Reaccumulation of the joint effusion
Synovial fluid analysis is an important diagnostic test to confirm several diseases of joints. It can be done to know existing condition of a joint so that appropriate physiotherapy management can be delivered.
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