Olecranon Bursitis


Olecranon bursitis is a common condition characterized by inflammation of the olecranon bursa, a fluid-filled sac located at the tip of the elbow. In this detailed article, we'll delve into the complexities of olecranon bursitis, examining its causes, symptoms, diagnostic methods, and a range of treatment options. Whether you're experiencing elbow discomfort or seeking information for a loved one, understanding these aspects can facilitate informed decision-making and effective management of this condition.

What is Olecranon Bursitis?

Olecranon bursitis occurs when the olecranon bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, leading to the accumulation of excess fluid in the bursa sac. This can result in swelling, pain, and limited mobility of the elbow joint. The olecranon bursa serves as a cushion between the skin and the bony prominence of the elbow, helping to reduce friction and facilitate smooth movement of the joint.

Causes of Olecranon Bursitis

Olecranon bursitis can develop as a result of various factors, including trauma or direct injury to the elbow, repetitive pressure or friction on the bursa, bacterial infection, or underlying medical conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who engage in activities that involve frequent leaning on the elbows or prolonged pressure on the olecranon bursa may be at a higher risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Common symptoms of olecranon bursitis include swelling, tenderness, and redness at the back of the elbow, near the tip of the olecranon bone. The affected area may feel warm to the touch, and individuals may experience discomfort or pain when bending or straightening the elbow. In some cases, the swelling may increase in size over time, leading to difficulty in performing daily activities that involve elbow movement.

Diagnosis of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Diagnosing olecranon bursitis typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional, focusing on assessing the appearance and tenderness of the affected area. In some cases, imaging studies such as X-rays or ultrasound may be ordered to rule out other potential causes of elbow pain and swelling, such as fractures or soft tissue injuries. If infection is suspected, fluid aspiration and laboratory testing may be performed to determine the presence of bacteria in the bursa.

Treatment Options for Olecranon Bursitis

Treatment for olecranon bursitis aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent recurrence of the condition. Conservative treatment options may include rest, ice therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and the use of elbow pads or cushions to reduce pressure on the bursa. In cases where infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the underlying bacterial infection.

When do I need surgery for Olecranon Bursitis?

In rare cases where conservative treatments are ineffective or the bursitis becomes chronic and recurrent, surgical removal of the bursa (bursectomy) may be considered.

Bursectomy involves the surgical excision of the olecranon bursa to eliminate the source of inflammation and prevent further episodes of bursitis. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision over the back of the elbow, carefully dissecting and removing the bursa while preserving surrounding structures such as nerves and blood vessels. Once the bursa is removed, the incision is closed, and the area is bandaged.

Recovery from bursectomy typically involves a period of immobilization and rest, followed by a gradual return to activities as guided by the surgeon and physical therapist. Patients may experience some discomfort and stiffness in the elbow initially, but this usually resolves with time and rehabilitation. In most cases, surgical removal of the bursa provides long-term relief from symptoms and allows individuals to resume their normal daily activities without limitation. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications, including infection, bleeding, and nerve damage, which should be discussed with the surgeon prior to undergoing surgery.


Olecranon bursitis is a common condition that can cause discomfort and limited mobility of the elbow joint. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available, individuals can take proactive steps towards managing this condition effectively and preventing recurrence. Whether opting for conservative measures or more invasive treatments, seeking timely medical evaluation and guidance is essential for achieving optimal outcomes and restoring elbow health and function.

Driven by compassion, decades of experience in orthopaedic care, and modern technology, we strive to provide patient-centric care by alleviating pain, restoring mobility, and improving the quality of life for all our patients. At Orthopaedic and Hand Surgery Partners, where compassion meets experience, you can trust in us. 

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820 Thomson Road #06-08
Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A
Singapore 574623

Monday to Friday: 0900 - 1730hrs
Closed on Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays