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Joint effusion

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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It is important to exclude septic arthritis because of rapid joint destruction in bacterial infection.

Most effusions are due to bruising within the joint from acute trauma or from unaccustomed overuse of the joint. The wcause may not be immediately apparent owing to the delay in symptoms developing. Cartilage bruising subsides slowly and so warn the patient of the risk of wear if the cartilage is not treated gently while softened by oedema.

Effusions serve to separate, nourish and lubricate bruised cartilage and so NSAID's and tight compression should probably be used with caution to avoid long term harm. The RICE physiotherapy plan remains the best treatment.

Sometimes there is more serious joint derangement requiring surgical, usually arthroscopic, intervention, such as for a bucket-handle tear of a meniscus in the knee.

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