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Joint aspiration is used to diagnose certain joint problems. A needle is inserted into a joint space, and fluid (synovial fluid) is drawn out (aspirated) and examined under a microscope. A doctor can often make a diagnosis after analyzing the fluid. For example, a sample of synovial fluid may contain bacteria, which confirms a diagnosis of infection. Or, it may contain certain crystals, which confirms a diagnosis of gout (urate crystals) or pseudogout (see Gout and Pseudogout: Gout) (calcium crystals). Usually performed in the doctor’s office, this procedure is generally quick, easy, and relatively painless. The risk of joint infection is minimal.

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