What is joint effusion?

Joint is a structure that helps to connect bone. It is made up of fibrous connective tissue, mostly in forms of collagen and plays an important role in body movement. The greater the range of movement, the higher the risk for injury. Think of it as a plasticine connecting two wood sticks and when you pull both of these away from each other, at a certain point it will break and tear up. During a medical screening such as a medical check-up, you may want to ask your doctor to check your limb, especially the joint area like knee and elbow for signs of any problems especially after a fall or tripping over something.

    Joint effusion is one of the disorders that usually affect the knee and elbow joint. It is defined as an increased amount of fluid within the synovial compartment of a joint. Synovial compartment is made up of connective tissue that lines the inside of the joint capsule. The bone surfaces that are covered with thin layers of cartilage and the lubricating fluid called the “synovial fluid” smoothing in between the two cartilage-covered bones makes a synovial compartment of knees and elbow. In a normal condition, only a small amount of the lubricating fluid exists. However, in an abnormal setting, the increased amount of fluid caused by inflammation, infection or trauma leads to the joint effusion. The two types of joints that are often seen by physicians are knee joint effusion and elbow joint effusion. Although there are also ankle joint effusion and shoulder joint effusion, it is considered as uncommon cases. The accumulation of the abnormal fluid can be in forms of protein, blood or fat.

Knee joint effusion

The knee joint effusion can be resulted by acute (sudden) or chronic (long time) conditions. This can be precipitated by trauma or fractures such as overuse of the knee or systemic diseases like infections causing septic joints, osteoarthritis or gout. Knee is frequently associated with joint effusion due to injuries likely happening to the knee compared to other joints since it supports body weight the most. A person is suspected of knee effusion when the knee looks swollen and the need for immediate treatment is emphasised if a person unable to stand properly (non-weight bearing), catching fever and if the doctor or  knee pain specialist Naples detects signs of compromised knee such as loss of pulses and loss of sensation such as touch and pain sensation.

Elbow joint effusion

This type of effusion is common among adults and children. Most cases involved elbow fractures. It is quite difficult to determine an elbow fracture especially in children and often missed in x-rays. The good thing is, the joint effusion can be detected much easily when the fat pads in the elbow are displaced from its normal position.

Ankle joint effusion

Ankle, just as the knee plays part in supporting the body weight. Hence, it is also susceptible to trauma or injuries such as sprain or fractures. These injuries may cause direct damage to the synovial membrane or cause bones to become imbalanced and misaligned which in time irritate the synovial compartment. The joint effusion may likely occur because of infection too either bacterial or viral.

Shoulder joint effusion

Also known as glenohumeral joint effusion, it is usually caused by trauma such as the rotator cuff tears or osteoarthritis.

    Treatments are based on the doctor’s findings and the symptoms exhibited by patients. In most cases that are unknown or unsure of the exact cause of the joint effusion, ultrasound may be used to help give a clearer image of the severity of the joint effusion and obtaining some of the fluid from the affected site by an arthrocentesis procedure can help determine the cause. Get Vaccinated.

References:

https://radiopaedia.org/articles/joint-effusion

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532279/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-16154-x

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519052/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557725/