What is joint aspiration (arthrocentesis)?

Updated: Nov 06, 2018
  • Author: Steven N Berney, MD; Chief Editor: Vinod K Panchbhavi, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Aspiration of a joint (arthrocentesis) with subsequent analysis of the synovial fluid is a critical component in diagnosing arthritis. [1, 2] Analysis of the joint fluid can differentiate an inflammatory arthritis from a noninflammatory arthritis. A definitive diagnosis of crystalline arthritis or septic arthritis can be made only by means of joint aspiration.

Joint aspiration is a relatively quick and inexpensive procedure to perform. It can be done in an office setting or in a hospital. No particular certification is required to perform arthrocentesis; it can be done by any physician, physician’s assistant, or advance practice nurse who has the appropriate training and equipment. Initial analysis of the fluid can be performed in the office with the use of a polarized light microscope.


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