J Vis Exp. 2022 Feb 25;(180). doi: 10.3791/63135.
Arthrocentesis of the knee is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the knee joint, and synovial fluid is aspirated. An arthrocentesis can be diagnostic or therapeutic. Synovial fluid may be removed for testing to determine the nature of the knee effusion. If septic arthritis is suspected, urgent arthrocentesis before initiation of antibiotic treatment is indicated. Moreover, arthrocentesis can also aid in diagnosing crystal-induced arthritis such as gout or pseudogout, or non-inflammatory arthritis such as osteoarthritis. Identifying the cause of the knee effusion can guide treatment. Furthermore, removing fluid from a knee can reduce intraarticular pressure to decrease pain and improve range of motion. There is no absolute contraindication to performing this procedure, but in selecting the needle entry site, an area of skin that is infected should be avoided. Therefore, caution should be exercised when a patient presents with suspected cellulitis over the knee joint to avoid the potential risk of causing iatrogenic septic arthritis. A knee that has undergone arthroplasty should be assessed for arthrocentesis by an orthopedic surgeon. Arthrocentesis of the knee is typically performed with the patient supine. The site for needle insertion is marked, and then the skin is disinfected. After a local anesthetic is administered, a needle is inserted along the pathway that was anesthetized. Synovial fluid is aspirated, and then the needle is withdrawn. Pressure is applied until any bleeding stops. The synovial fluid can be analyzed for infection and inflammation but cannot directly confirm a diagnosis of internal derangement or autoimmune causes of arthritis. In addition to the history and physical examination, laboratory findings and imaging can clarify the etiology of a knee effusion.