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Olecranon Bursitis

What is it?

The olecranon bursa is located on the elbow, and can become irritated and inflamed from a traumatic blow experienced or simply from being rubbed the wrong way. Sometimes it flares up from repetitive flexion- extension activity to the elbow; this can cause pain from the constant rubbing of the skin over the bursa. Swelling and hemorrhage develop within the bursal sac, producing pain and stiffness posteriorly.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms are relatively straight forward, upon clinical examination swelling and tenderness over the olecranon bursa will be noticed. Erythema is often inspected for to be sure that an infectious bursitis isn’t present. The doctor will also rule out the infection being the reason for the bursitis, if the pain is extremely severe and there isn’t any history of trauma.


Usually the initial treatment of olecranon bursitis includes compression and ice application to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Sometimes the use of a sling or splint is required to keep the elbow immobilized. After the swelling has subsided a bit aspiration via syringe is sometimes helpful. If aspiration is performed it is done very carefully, using all sterile techniques. It’s important that it be done carefully because of the poor blood supply to this area which could result in infection rather easily.

For athletes that attain this problem when returning to sport the area should be protected rather well with some sort of padding.

In few cases surgery is done on the olecranon bursa to excise the bursa, that is cut it or release the tension.


Patients with this bursitis tend to do very well with the conservative treatment, and as previously stated only few patients ever tend to need surgical intervention. Those patients are usually the unfortunate few whom have chronic or recurrent olecranon bursitis. In general it is very curable and relatively well treatment receptive.


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