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The analysis of synovial fluid in total knee arthroplasties with flexion instability

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Patients with flexion instability after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) often present with a recurrent effusion, which may be a haemarthrosis. While the radiographic factors contributing to flexion instability have been elucidated, the clinical diagnosis remains challenging. Our aim, in this study, was to determine the mean white cell count and differential profile in pre-operative aspirations of synovial fluid in a consecutive series of patients undergoing revision TKA for flexion instability.

Patients and Methods

Between 2000 and 2010, 60 patients undergoing aseptic revision TKA for flexion instability were identified. The results of the pre-operative aspiration of synovial fluid were available for 53 patients (88%). These patients were 1:2 matched to 106 patients who underwent aseptic TKA for indications other than flexion instability. The mean age of the patients at revision TKA was 65 years (44 to 82) and 55% were women. The mean follow-up was 4.3 years (2 to 10.2).


In the flexion instability group, the median total cell count was 312 cells/µL (interquartile range (IQR) 104 to 624), with a mean distribution of 45% macrophages (2% to 90%), 30% lymphocytes (1% to 69%), 18% neutrophils (0% to 80%), 0.5% eosinophils (0% to 6%) and 7% other cells (0% to 42%; mainly synovial cells). There was no significant difference in the median total cell count (p = 0.14) or mean distribution of macrophages (p = 0.42), lymphocytes (p = 0.38), neutrophils (p = 0.19) and eosinophils (p = 0.89) between the flexion instability and control groups. There was a significant difference in the percentage of bloody serosanguineous aspirations which was 58% in the flexion instability group and 18% in the control group (odds ratio = 6.5; p = 0.0001).


In the group of patients who underwent revision TKA for flexion instability, most had a mean cell count and differential similar to those who underwent revision for other aseptic indications. However, bloody serosanguineous aspirations were 6.5 times more common in those with flexion instability confirming that many of the recurrent effusions seen in this condition are haemarthroses.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2017;99-B:1477–81.

Correspondence should be sent to M. P. Abdel; email:

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