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Elbow Bursitis

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Posted by on Saturday, March 26, 2011, 6:37
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Bursae are thin, slippery sacs located throughout the body that act as cushions between bones and soft tissues. They contain a small amount of lubricating fluid that allows the skin to move freely over the underlying bone.

Elbow Bursitis
Elbow Bursitis

The olecranon bursa lies between the loose skin and the pointy bone at the back of the elbow called the olecranon.

Normally, the olecranon bursa is flat. If it becomes irritated or inflamed, more fluid will accumulate in the bursa and bursitis will develop.

The treatment for elbow bursitis is usually best accomplished with a few simple steps:

* Draining the Bursa
The first step of treatment is accomplished by draining the fluid from the swollen bursa. This is done in the doctor’s office using a needle to aspirate (suck out) the fluid from the swollen bursa.

Your doctor will sterilize the skin around the swollen elbow bursa, and place a needle into the area of inflammation. By removing this excess fluid, patients often have significant relief of symptoms. There is a chance the fluid can re-accumulate, and therefore an injection of cortisone is also often performed.

* Cortisone Injection
After removing the excess fluid, your doctor may often administer a cortisone injection into the bursa. Cortisone will suppress the inflammatory response to increase the chance of a lasting solution.

* Rest
Patients with elbow bursitis should rest and protect their elbow until the elbow bursitis has been completely treated. Usually no special protection or bracing is needed, and simply avoiding strenuous activity, lifting, and pressure on the elbow will allow the inflammation to subside.

In addition, some of the following steps may be done:

* Anti-inflammatory Medications
An oral anti-inflammatory medication is also commonly prescribed. These medications are most helpful with the pain that is caused by elbow bursitis, but they may also help control some of the inflammation.

* Brief Immobilization
Immobilization with a splint is usually not necessary, but may be helpful in some patients. Caution should be used with immobilization as a frozen (stiff) elbow joint can easily develop. Therefore, immobilization beyond a few days should be avoided, and gentle motion of the elbow joint should be encouraged.

What is the treatment for infected elbow bursitis?
If there is a question of infection within the bursa, the fluid will be sent for analysis. Treatment of infected bursitis requires repeated drainage of the fluid, antibiotic treatment, and sometimes a surgical procedure to remove the infected bursa.

Signs of infection include:

o Fevers, chills, and sweats

o Redness around the bursa

o Pus within the bursa

Because of this specific treatment needed, all cases of elbow bursitis should be evaluated by a physician to ensure there is no evidence of infection.

Will elbow bursitis come back?
Elbow bursitis can come back, but in a routine case, followed by drainage and resting the elbow, the inflammation usually subsides and the problem resolves.

If the bursitis returns persistently, the bursa can be surgically removed, but this is rarely necessary. Often patients will feel a marble-like bump of thickened bursa even months after an episode of elbow bursitis. This is the tickened, scar that was the inflamed bursa.

How can I prevent elbow bursitis?
Patients who are prone to developing elbow bursitis are most often those people who place pressure on the point of the elbow for prolonged periods. In these patients, elbow pads can protect the elbow and help to prevent elbow bursitis.

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