Skip to main content

Methods and Errors in Measurements of Synovial Fluid Volume in Stifles with Low Volume and High Viscosity Synovial Fluid. An Experimental Study in Goats


Synovial fluid (SF) volume was calculated using various methods in the stifles of goats, in which the cranial cruciate ligament had been transected on one side. Measurements were performed prior to surgery and again 4,8, and 18 weeks following surgery, by measuring the dilution of an injected radioactive tracer diluted by the SF. Later, 7 months following surgery, SF volume measurements using simple arthrocentesis were performed on stifles in 9 of the goats, and the SF that could not be aspirated, was calculated using 2 indirect methods simultaneously on identical fluids in 3 of these goats. SF was also collected directly during staged arthrotomy of the stifles in 4 goats.

There were conflicting results between methods, but the resulting calculated SF volumes seemed to be larger in the operated stifles compared to the controls for all the methods at about the same degree. The 2 indirect methods used to calculate the fluid remaining in the joints following arthrocentesis gave disparate volume calculations. The experiments revealed sources of error in all methods. Direct methods failed to acquire the total fluid volume, and indirect methods were subject to improper mixing and escape of the injected fluid or synovial fluid or both. It was concluded that none of the methods could be used to measure the “true” volume of SF, if such a concept exists and can be defined. None of the methods were considered reliable to compare volumes in different type of joints containing this type of fluid. It was, however, concluded that all the methods gave indication of increased SF volume present on a relative basis when paired joints were compared.


  • Cochrane W, Davies DV, Palfrey AJ: Absorptive functions of the synovial membrane. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 1965, 24, (2–15).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ekman L, Nilsson G, Persson L, Lumsden JH: Volume of the synovia in certain joint cavities in the horse. Acta vet. scand. 1981, 22, (23–31).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Geborek P, Saxne T, Heinegàrd D, Wollheim FA: Measurement of synovial fluid volume using albumin dilution upon intraarticular saline injection. J. Rheum. 1988, 15, (91–94).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Heinegàrd D, Inerot S, Wieslander J, Lindblad G: A method for the quantification of cartilage proteoglycan structures liberated to the synovial fluid during developing degenerative joint disease. Scand. J. clin. Lab. Invest. 1985, 45, (421–427).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heinegàrd D, Saxne T: Molecular markers of processes in cartilage in joint disease. Brit. J. Rheum. 1991, 30, (21–24).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kety SS: Measurement of regional circulation by the local clearance of radioactive sodium. Amer. Heart J. 1949, 58, (321–327).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Knight AD, Levick JR: Morphometry of the ultrastructure of the blood-joint barrier in the rabbit knee. Exp. Physiol. 1984, 69, (271–288).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levick JR: The “clearance” of macromolecular substances such as cartilage markers from synovial fluid and serum. In: Maroudas A, Kuettner K (eds.): Methods in cartilage research. Academic Press, London 1990, 352–362.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levick JR, Thompson PW: Correspondence. Intraarticular volume as an important factor governing macromolecular half life in synovial fluid. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 1988, 47, (701–704).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rekonen A, Oka M, Kuikka J: Measurement of synovial fluid volume by a radioisotope method. Scand. J. Rheum. 1973, 2, (33–35).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rodnan GP, Maclachlan MJ: The absorption of serum albumin and gamma globulin from the knee joint of man and rabbit. Arthr. and Rheum. 1960, 3, (152–157).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ronéus B, Lindblad A, Lindholm A, Jones B: Effects of intraarticular corticosteroid and sodium hyaluronate injections on synovial fluid production and synovial fluid content of sodium hyaluronate and proteoglycans in normal equine joints. 1993, 40, (10–16).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saxne T, Heinegàrd D, Wollheim FA: Therapeutic effects on cartilage metabolism in arthritis as measured by release of proteoglycan structures into synovial fluid. Ann. rheum. Dis. 1986, 45, (491–497).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Simkin PA, Benedict RS: Iodide and albumin kinetics in normal canine wrists and knees. Arthr. Rheum. 1990, 33, (73–79).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ: Biometry, the principles and practice of statistics in biological research (2.ed). W.H. Freeman and Company, New York 1981, 354–359.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Pelt RV: Properties of equine synovial fluid. J. Amer. vet. med. Ass. 1962, 141, (1051–1061).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallis WJ, Simkin PA, Nelp WB, Foster DM: Intraarticular volume and clearance in human synovial effusions. Arthr. and Rheum. 1985, 28, (441–449).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wallis WJ, Simkin PA, Nelp WB: Protein traffic in human synovial effusions. Arthr. and Rheum. 1987, 30, (57–63).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


Thanks to professor Monika østensen, Department of Rheumatology, Trondheim Central Hospital and professor Ronald D. Sande, Department of Radiology, Washington State University, for their contribution and personal support. Thanks also to professor Dick Heinegård, Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of Lund, Sweden, for analyzes of synovial fluids and professor Nils Normann, The Hormone Laboratory, Aker Hospital, Oslo, for supplying the RISA used in the measurements. Finally thanks to Eva Solberg and others of the technical personal in the Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine. The study was founded by The Research Council of Norway.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rørvik, A.M. Methods and Errors in Measurements of Synovial Fluid Volume in Stifles with Low Volume and High Viscosity Synovial Fluid. An Experimental Study in Goats. Acta Vet Scand 36, 213–222 (1995).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: