Joint effusion

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Joint effusion
A traumatic right knee effusion. Note the swelling lateral to the kneecap as marked by the arrow.
SpecialtyOrthopedics, rheumatology

A joint effusion is the presence of increased intra-articular fluid.[1] It may affect any joint. Commonly it involves the knee.

Diagnostic approach[edit]

The approach to diagnosis depends on the joint involved. While aspiration of the joint is considered the gold standard of treatment, this can be difficult for joints such as the hip. Ultrasound may be used both to verify the existence of an effusion and to guide aspiration.[2]

Differential diagnosis[edit]

Synovial fluid examination[3][4]
Type WBC per mm3 % neutrophils Viscosity Appearance
Normal <200 0 High Transparent
Osteoarthritis <5000 <25 High Clear yellow
Trauma <10,000 <50 Variable Bloody
Inflammatory 2,000–50,000 50–80 Low Cloudy yellow
Septic arthritis >50,000 >75 Low Cloudy yellow
Gonorrhea ~10,000 60 Low Cloudy yellow
Tuberculosis ~20,000 70 Low Cloudy yellow
Inflammatory = gout, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever

There are many causes of joint effusion. It may result from trauma, inflammation, hematologic conditions, or infections.[1]

Septic arthritis[edit]

Septic arthritis is the purulent invasion of a joint by an infectious agent[5][6] with a resultant large effusion due to inflammation.[7] Septic arthritis is a serious condition. It can lead to irreversible joint damage in the event of delayed diagnosis or mismanagement. It is basically a disease of children and adolescence.[6]


Gout is usually present with recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis (red, tender, hot, swollen joint). It is caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood that crystallizes and deposits in joints, tendons, and surrounding tissues. Gout affects 1% of individuals in Western populations at some point in their lives.[8]


Trauma from ligamentous, osseous or meniscal injuries can result in an effusion.[9] These are often hemarthrosis or bloody effusions.[citation needed]


The treatment for Joint effusion include icing, rest and medication as advised by your doctor.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mathison DJ, Teach SJ (November 2009). "Approach to knee effusions". Pediatr Emerg Care. 25 (11): 773–86, quiz 787–8. doi:10.1097/PEC.0b013e3181bec987. PMID 19915432. S2CID 1701019.
  2. ^ Marx, John (2010). Rosen's emergency medicine: concepts and clinical practice (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Mosby/Elsevier. p. Chapter 53. ISBN 978-0-323-05472-0.
  3. ^ Flynn, John A.; Choi, Michael J.; Wooster, L. Dwight (2013). Oxford American Handbook of Clinical Medicine. OUP USA. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-19-991494-4.
  4. ^ Seidman, Aaron J.; Limaiem, Faten (2019), "Synovial Fluid Analysis", StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, PMID 30725799, retrieved 2019-12-19
  5. ^ "septic arthritis" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  6. ^ a b El-Sobky, T; Mahmoud, S (July 2021). "Acute osteoarticular infections in children are frequently forgotten multidiscipline emergencies: beyond the technical skills". EFORT Open Reviews. 6 (7): 584–592. doi:10.1302/2058-5241.6.200155. PMC 8335954. PMID 34377550.
  7. ^ Marx, John (2010). Rosen's emergency medicine: concepts and clinical practice (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Mosby/Elsevier. p. Chapter 134. ISBN 978-0-323-05472-0.
  8. ^ Chen LX, Schumacher HR (October 2008). "Gout: an evidence-based review". J Clin Rheumatol. 14 (5 Suppl): S55–62. doi:10.1097/RHU.0b013e3181896921. PMID 18830092.
  9. ^ Johnson MW (April 2000). "Acute knee effusions: a systematic approach to diagnosis". Am Fam Physician. 61 (8): 2391–400. PMID 10794580.
  10. ^ "A to Z: Joint Effusion". KidsHealth.

External links[edit]