Bursitis

What is it: Bursitis (ber-SEYE-tis) is swelling and pain of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion or shock absorber between a tendon and a bone. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscles to bones. Although you cannot feel it, the elbow bursa is behind your elbow (over the pointed tip). Normally a bursa has a small amount of fluid in it. When injured, the bursa becomes inflamed (red and sore) and may fill with too much fluid. Olecranon (oh-LEK-rah-non) bursitis is a type of elbow bursitis when the bursa in your elbow becomes inflamed. With treatment, your bursitis should go away in one to two weeks.

Important Facts: Bursitis may be a long-term problem that comes and goes over time. Your bursitis may happen suddenly if it is caused by things like infection or a hard hit to the elbow.

Treatment Duration: Surgery for infected bursa. If the bursa is infected and it does not improve with antibiotics or by removing fluid from the elbow, surgery to remove the entire bursa may be needed. This is often an inpatient procedure, meaning you will need to stay overnight in the hospital. This surgery may be combined with further use of oral or intravenous antibiotics.

Surgery for noninfected bursa. If elbow bursitis is not a result of infection, surgery may still be needed if nonsurgical treatments do not work. In this case, surgery to remove the bursa is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. The surgery does not disturb any muscle, ligament, or joint structures.

Recovery. Your doctor will apply a splint to your arm after the procedure to protect your skin. In most cases, casts or prolonged immobilization are not necessary.

Although formal physical therapy after surgery is not usually needed, your doctor will recommend specific exercises to improve your range of motion. These are typically permitted within a few days of the surgery.

Your skin should be well healed within 10 to 14 days after the surgery, and after 3 to 4 weeks, your doctor may allow you to fully use your elbow. Your elbow may need to be padded or protected for several months to prevent re-injury.