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Facts about Bursitis

  • Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce the friction between the various tissues found in the body.
  • An injury, infection, or an underlying rheumatic condition can cause bursa inflammation.
  • Bursitis is identified through swelling, tenderness, and pain with motion in the affected area.
  • Treatment of bursitis aims to reduce inflammation and treat any infection that may be present.

Knee BursitisWhat is Knee Bursitis?

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. A bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body. There are 160 bursae in the body. The major bursae are located near the tendons close to the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.


What causes a Bursa to become inflamed?

A bursa can become inflamed through injury, infections or due to an underlying rheumatic condition. Examples of bursitis include injury as simple as lifting a bag of groceries into the car to inflame the shoulder bursa (shoulder bursitis), infection of the bursa in front of the knee from a knee scraping on rough ground (septic prepatellar bursitis), and inflammation of the elbow bursa from the formation of gout crystals (gouty olecranon bursitis). Sometimes tendonitis occurs associated with bursitis, especially in the shoulder region.


What are Knee Bursitis symptoms and signs?

The symptoms of bursitis are related to the degree of the inflammation that is present in the bursa and the location of the bursa involved. The inflamed bursa can cause pain and tenderness. If the bursa is so inflamed that swelling occurs, it can cause local swelling and stiffness, sometimes associated with redness and warmth. The inflammation can make it painful to support the pressure of the body weight.


How is Knee Bursitis diagnosed?

Bursitis is typically identified by pain or swelling, tenderness, and pain during motion of the tissues in the affected region. X-ray testing might sometime detect calcifications in the bursa when bursitis has been chronic or recurrent. Though MRI scanning can be used to identify bursitis, it is not always necessary.


What is the Treatment for Knee Bursitis?

The treatment of the various forms of bursitis depends on whether it involves infection or not. Non-infected bursitis (from injury or underlying rheumatic disease) can be treated with ice compression, ample rest, and consuming anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Occasionally, it requires removal of the bursa fluid and this clinical procedure involves removing the fluid with a needle and syringe under sterile conditions. It can be performed in the clinic. Sometimes the fluid will be sent for analysis at the laboratory. Noninfectious bursitis can also be treated with a cortisone injection into the affected bursa. This is sometimes done at the same time as the aspiration procedure and will often rapidly reduce the inflammation of the affected bursa.

Infectious (septic) bursitis requires even further evaluation and aggressive treatment. The fluid can be analyzed in the laboratory to identify the microbes causing the infection. Septic bursitis requires antibiotics, sometimes intravenously. You may require repeated aspiration of the infected fluid. Surgical drainage and removal of the infected bursa sac (bursectomy) may also be necessary. Generally, the adjacent joint will function normally after the surgical wound recovers.