Synovitis (or synovial inflammation) is when the synovium of a joint becomes inflamed (swollen). The synovium, which is also sometimes called the stratum synoviale or synovial stratum, is connective tissue that lines the inside of the joint capsule.

A joint capsule, also called an articular capsule, is a bubble-like structure that surrounds joints such as the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, knee, foot and ankle. It is composed of a tough, outer layer called the fibrous stratum and a soft inside layer (the synovium). Contained inside both layers is synovial fluid, a viscous liquid that lubricates the joint to reduce friction on the articular cartilage during motion.


Synovitis is a major problem in rheumatoid arthritis, in juvenile arthritis, in lupus, and in psoriatic arthritis. It may also be associated with rheumatic fever, tuberculosis, trauma, or gout.

Rheumatoid arthritis involves synovitis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane lining the joint becomes inflamed. The cells in the membrane divide and grow and inflammatory cells come into the joint from other parts of the body.


Signs and symptoms of synovitis depend on what area of the body is affected. Typically, most people with synovitis will experience these symptoms:

  • Joint pain that ranges from mild to severe
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty moving the affected area
  • Thickening of the tissue
  • Increased blood flow to the affected area
  • Increased fluid production

How to diagnose Synovitis?

  • A rheumatologist will aim to diagnose the cause of the patient’s pain by first determining whether it is inside the joint itself, meaning true synovitis, or if it is actually caused by an inflammation of the tendons, referred to as tendonitis (sometimes spelled tendinitis). 
  • The main diagnostic tool that is used to detect the presence of synovitis is the Synovial Fluid Analysis. This test examines the lubricating fluid secreted by synovial membranes. A sample of the fluid is drawn for analysis and for culture if infection is suspected.
  • Imaging, such as an MRI or musculoskeletal ultrasound is often required to make a firm diagnosis. This imaging can also help determine what particular grade of synovitis a person has.

This condition will be rated on limitation of motion of affected body part.

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