Elbow Bursitis

If the olecranon bursa is not infected, treatment consists initially of avoiding activities that cause direct pressure on the elbow. Applying compression with a wrap or compression sleeve and icing the elbow 15-20 minutes 2-3 times per day can help to decrease the swelling. Also, an elbow pad may be used to help cushion the elbow and provide protection if direct pressure is applied to the elbow. An oral anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be used to help reduce the swelling. If the swelling and pain persist despite these treatments, draining the fluid from the bursa with a needle and injecting the bursa with a corticosteroid may be performed.  

If these treatments do not work and a person is still experiencing swelling, pain, and decreased function, surgery to remove the entire bursa can be performed, but this is not common. If surgery is performed, the bursa sac will typically grow back over the course of several months.  

If there is concern that the olecranon bursa is infected, fluid will be drained from the bursa with a needle. This fluid will then be sent to the laboratory to be analyzed so that an appropriate antibiotic can be started as necessary. If the bursa is infected and does not improve with drainage and antibiotics, surgery may be performed to excise the bursa.

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