Elbow Bursitis

Olecranon bursitis occurs when there is swelling with or without pain in the bursa in the back of the elbow. The bursa is a normal structure contains a very small amount of fluid in a sack located between the skin and the bone. When the bursa becomes irritated the normally flat bursa bulges out and becomes visible.

Olecranon Bursitis Causes

There are several causes of olecranon bursitis.

  • Trauma. A hard bump to the elbow can cause bleeding into the bursa.
  • Prolonged pressure. Leaning on the elbow for prolonged periods on a hard surface can cause the bursa to swell.
  • Infection. A break in the skin over the bursa (abrasion, insect bite, puncture) can allow bacteria to enter. Approximately 20% of cases have an infectious cause.
  • Medical conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are associated with bursitis.

Olecranon Bursitis Symptoms

Symptoms of olecranon bursitis may include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain with direct pressure on bending the elbow
  • Redness and warmth can be a sign of infection

Olecranon Bursitis Diagnosis

Testing may include x-rays to look for foreign bodies, bone spurs or calcium deposits. Fluid by be withdrawn from the bursa to test for infection or gout.

Olecranon Bursitis Treatment

Treatment options include:

  • Activity modification with avoidance of resting on the elbow
  • Elbow pads
  • Anti-inflamitory medication
  • Aspiration of fluid to drain bursa and check for infection
  • Possible cortisone injection, may or may not help

Olecranon Bursitis Surgery

The bursa may be opened to drain or removed for infection followed by antibiotics. The bursa may also be excised for a chronic bursitis without infection as an outpatient surgery.

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