Is routine synovial fluid analysis necessary? Lessons and recommendations from an audit

Rheumatol Int. 1999;18(5-6):181-2. doi: 10.1007/s002960050082.


This audit of 408 synovial fluid samples, analysed for cell counts and crystals, revealed that crystals were present in only 25 samples (6.1%). Of these, in only three patients was the diagnosis uncertain and therefore the analysis helpful. Cell counts and types generally reflected known underlying diagnoses of inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis. Routine synovial fluid analysis does not contribute to diagnosis or management in established rheumatic disorders and should be performed only when the underlying cause is uncertain or in newly presenting patients. Major savings can be made by abandoning routine synovial fluid analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit
  • Rheumatic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry*
  • Synovial Fluid / cytology*
  • Unnecessary Procedures