UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Olecranon Bursitis

Keywords: olecranon, bursitiis, septic, treatment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/17/2008 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/15/2024)
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Olecranon Bursitis is inflammation and swelling of the bursa overlying the olecranon process of the ulna.  Can result from trauma, overuse, or infection. 

Treatment can consist of:

  • Aspiration:  Can be done to rule out infection [send gram stain, culture, and cell count], and be therapeutic by removing the excess fluid.
  • NSAIDs
  • Local injection of corticosteroids into the bursa
  • Wearing of a neopryne elbow sleeve, or ace wraps to provide compression over the bursa and may help prevent reaccumulation of the fluid.

Remember aspiration has some major risks that need to be explained to the paitent:

  • Infection may be introduced during the aspiration.  [Follow aseptic techniques and ensure that the skin is adequately prepped with chlorhexidine or betadiene].
  • Formation of fistula tract with chronic drainage. [Use a Z or zigzap approach to minimize this complication.]
  • Ulnar nerve injury.  Avoided by using a posterior lateral approach and avoiding a medial approach.

They also need to know that the fluid will likely reaccumulate.  So aspiration is not a guaranteed cure.