What is a bursa?

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that can be found in areas of the body that require the skin or tendons to glide. Common sites include the elbow (olecranon), the knee (patellar) and the shoulder (rotator cuff).

What is olecranon bursitis?

Olecranon bursitis is the inflammation of the olecranon bursa. It is generally referred to as any swelling on the posterior elbow.

What are the causes of olecranon bursitis?

There are three primary causes of olecranon bursitis: trauma, inflammation, and infection. If the elbow is injured and there is bleeding in the bursa, olecranon bursitis can occur. Prolonged pressure from a traumatic event can also have the same effect. Second, patients with gout, rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions can inflame the bursa and cause olecranon bursitis. Finally, an infection of the bursa will cause the sac to fill with fluid.

How is olecranon bursitis treated?

A non-infected bursa can be treated with the use of an elbow sleeve and, if necessary, an aspiration to remove excess fluid. Oftentimes, an aspiration is needed to diagnose infection or gout.

A chronic bursa or one that has been infected before is usually treated with surgical excision. This requires patients to use a splint, followed by an elbow sleeve, for three to four weeks. In the case of an infected bursa, the infection must be controlled, which requires antibiotics and immobilization. In the case of a severe infection, this can require hospitalization and emergent surgery, combined with strong antibiotics.

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