What is Synovitis?
A protective membrane, called synovium, covers all the
bones, tendons, and cartilage in your knee. The membrane
surrounds a thick fluid, called synovial fluid, which
lubricates your knee and helps it move smoothly. Synovitis
occurs when the protective membrane becomes irritated
or inflamed. Your knee swells as the synovium produces
too much fluid.
Traumatic and repeated injuries commonly
cause synovitis. It usually accompanies an underlying
joint injury that has chipped or roughened any of the
surfaces in your knee. Joint diseases, especially rheumatoid
arthritis and gout, can also cause synovitis. You are
most at risk of suffering synovitis in contact sports
like football. The risk of synovitis also increases
after repeated knee injuries of any kind.
Synovitis usually does not put you
at risk of any dangerous complications, and physicians
generally suggest healing with ice and anti-inflammatory
medication. If pain and swelling do not go away, further
treatment may be necessary.
There usually are three parts to an
orthopedic evaluation: medical history, a physical examination,
and tests that your physician may order.
will likely ask you when you noticed the swelling, how
much pain you have been feeling, and if your knee has
been previously injured. Physicians also typically ask
about other conditions, such as diabetes and allergies,
and medications currently being taken. Your physician
may also ask about your physical and athletic goals,
information that will help determine what treatment
might be best for you in achieving those goals.
The key to diagnosing synovitis is
finding the underlying cause. While asking you questions
to pinpoint your pain, physicians will also test ligament
and tendon strength by checking your knee's
range of motion. Depending on what your physician suspects
is causing synovitis, you may undergo a more thorough
physical exam to diagnose arthritis, meniscus tears,
cartilage damage, or other knee problems.
Should your physician require a closer look, MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) is generally the best method
for obtaining a clear picture of synovitis. MRI can
sometimes be used to catch minor synovitis before the
swelling becomes painful and visible to the eye. If
your physician suspects synovitis, some of the fluid
will usually be removed from your knee. Using a needle,
your physician can quickly remove a fluid sample and
have it tested in the laboratory. Synovial fluid that
is infected by synovitis has unique characteristics
that can be tested to make the final diagnosis. Arthroscopy,
a surgical procedure that uses an arthroscope, an instrument
which allows a surgeon to see inside the knee joint,
is sometimes used as a final diagnostic tool. Arthroscopy
can also be used to clean out the inflamed synovium.
Depending on other knee problems associated with synovitis,
your physician may order appropriate tests to make a