In this study, 100 synovial fluid (SF) samples from patients with a variety of arthritides were assayed for levels of colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) using a human bone-marrow bioassay and enzyme immunoassays for granulocyte (G-) and granulocyte-macrophage (GM-) CSFs. GM-CSF was found more frequently in samples from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) subjects (49%) than in non-RA samples (29%). Absence of GM- but not G- or bioassay CSFs characterised samples from subjects with psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (n = 14). There was strong evidence of an antagonistic relationship between levels of G- and GM-CSFs in samples from RA patients, an effect independent of drug treatment. However, treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) may affect reported CSF concentrations: G-CSF levels were significantly lower in samples from subjects not taking NSAIDs. These results suggest that SF-CSF estimations using commercially available assays could provide useful diagnostic clues for clinicians, but careful interpretation is warranted particularly in patients on long-term NSAID treatment.