Other Elbow Conditions

Other elbow conditions include:

Olecranon bursitis

What is olecranon bursitis?

The olecranon bursa is a fluid filled sac at the tip of the elbow that allows movement between the skin and the underlying bones of the elbow.  Bursitis refers to inflammation of the bursa. So olecranon bursitis is inflammation of the olecranon bursa.

When the bursa is inflamed it swells up and causes pain. Bursitis may be caused by:

  • trauma to tip of the elbow
  • infection due to a cut or scrape allowing bacteria in
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • gout

What are the symptoms of olecranon bursitis?

The most common symptoms are pain and swelling of the elbow tip. This olecranon bursa can swell up a lot, which is uncomfortable and can restrict movement.

If the bursa becomes infected, along with pain, swelling and limited movement, the elbow may also be hot to touch. You could have other signs of infection such as fevers, chills and feeling unwell. This should be treated quickly with antibiotics to avoid to avoid an ongoing problem.


What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will check for a swelling on the tip of your elbow. To see if the swelling consists of fluid, your doctor might shine a light through the swelling.

What investigations are needed?

An ultrasound or MRI scan may be required to see the bursa more clearly. An X-ray may also show an underlying bony injury.

How is olecranon bursitis treated?

Treatment options for shoulder impingement include:

  • non-drug therapy (egdraining the fluid from the bursa)
  • medication (eg oral anti-inflammatories and/or antibiotics; injections into the joint)
  • surgery

Olecranon bursitis surgery

If the bursitis does not improve with non-surgical procedures, surgery may be needed to remove the bursa. This a day surgery case and it is usually done as an open procedure.

An infected bursa will need to be excised if antibiotics have not resolved the infection. Surgery will involve removing the fluid and clearing the infected area. This may require a longer stay in hospital.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will discuss whether this procedure is suitable for you at your visit.

Possible complications

All treatment options carry the risk of recurrence of olecranon bursitis, even surgical incision and removal of the bursa. This recurrence makes bursitis a difficult and annoying condition to treat. Wound breakdown or non-healing of the surgical incision over the bony surface of the elbow is also possible after surgical treatment.