Treatment - How can I help

Olecranon Bursitis

Other popular names

None

Who does it affect?

Anyone

Why does it happen?

Olecranon bursitis (inflammation of the bursa - the tip of the elbow) can occur from injury or minor trauma, as a result of systemic diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, or can be due to a local infection.

Symptoms

Olecranon bursitis is typically associated with swelling over the tip of the elbow, while range of motion of the inner elbow joint is maintained.  

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made by examining the elbow. An X-Ray is usually carried out to make sure that there are no other problems with the elbow.

Non-surgical treatment

The treatment of olecranon bursitis includes ice packs, resting the elbow, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s).  Avoiding leaning on the elbow sometimes helps to reduce the size of the bursa and reduce the inflammation. If the bursa continues to cause symptoms, it is likely that I will offer you the choice of surgery at this point.

Surgical treatment

Surgery is carried out as a day case procedure usually either under a general anaesthetic and takes about 15 minutes. It involves removing the bursa.
The surgery is performed through a 5cm incision. The skin is incised and then the bursa is removed.  The skin is sutured. A bulky dressing is applied.

Post-surgery rehabilitation

You can go home soon after the operation.  Simple analgesia (pain killers) usually controls the pain and should be started before the anaesthetic has worn off.  The arm should be elevated as much as possible for the first 5 days to prevent the hand and fingers swelling. Gently bend and straighten the fingers and elbow from day 1. The dressing will be removed soon after your operation.  The wound is cleaned and redressed with a simple dressing.  Avoid forced gripping or lifting heavy objects for 2-3 weeks.  The sutures are removed at about 12 days.  You should notice an improvement in symptoms within a few weeks but the final result may take some 3-6 months.

Return to normal routine

Keep the wound dry until the stitches are out at 12 days.

Return to driving:

The hand needs to have full control of the steering wheel and left hand the gear stick.  You are advised to avoid driving for at least 7 days or until the sutures (stitches) are removed.

Return to work:

Everyone has different work environments.  Returning to heavy manual labour should be prevented for approximately 4 - 6 weeks. You will be given advice on your own particular situation.

Risks

Overall over 95% are happy with the result. However complications can occur.

General risks (less than 1% each):

Infection
Neuroma (nerve pain)
Numbness
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - RSD (<1% people suffer a reaction to surgery with painful stiff hands, which can occur with any elbow surgery from a minor procedure to a complex reconstruction).

Specific risks:

The bursa can reform and cause further symptoms.

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