Olecranon bursitis

This is a swelling of the cushion (bursa) at the tip of the elbow. The swelling occurs as a result of inflammation. This can be caused by a fall onto the elbow but also occurs after irritation to the bursa from prolonged or recurrent resting onto the elbows. This presents with swelling and pain.

An infected olecranon bursa can occur spontaneously but may also develop after the skin has been breached. This is very painful and can be associated with spreading redness. Patients may also feel unwell with temperatures. An infected olecranon bursitis needs to be treated urgently.

The diagnosis is made clinically but Xrays may be requested as these may show a bony spur at the tip of the elbow.

Treatment depends on the size of the swelling and the amount of pain. They can be left alone and may resolve. However, they may also recur in future. They can be aspirated with a needle, but the recurrence rate is high. Finally, they can also be excised surgically.

An infected olecranon bursitis is treated with antibiotics. If these fail to control the infection, then the bursa may need to be surgically drained.