Olecranon Bursitis

Olecranon Bursitis is named for its location over the olecranon bone, which lies at the back of the elbow. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursac - a sac of fluid located over a weight bearing area providing cushion and reducing friction during movement.

Symptoms of Olecranon Bursitis:

  • Pain - especially with movement of the elbow or pressure on the elbow.
  • Swelling - a lump may be felt in the back of the affected elbow. The swell´ng or lump is caused by increased fluid within the bursa.
  • Redness - red streaking, warmth, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the arm caused by infection.

Causes of Olecranon Bursitis:

  • Pressure placed on the bursa or from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis resulting in inflammation.
  • Trauma to the elbow, causing bleeding or fluid buildup.
  • Infection resulting from an injury at the site of the bursa, or an infection spreading to the bursa, or a blood-borne infection.


Olecranon bursitis is diagnosed after a review of your medical history and a physical examination. X-rays may also be necessary in order to determine whether there is a spur at the tip of the olecranon or if a fracture is present. If there is a concern about an infection in the elbow, it may be necessary to drain fluid from the elbow with a needle and have the fluid tested by a laboratory.

Treatment options include:

    For Acute Bursitis (sudden)
  • Padded dressing and anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Drainage of excess fluid in the sac with a needle.
  • Injections of medication such as cortisone into the sac to decrease inflammation and swelling.
    For Chronic Bursitis (persistent)
  • Educating on behavior changes (avoid leaning on the elbows, protecting the elbows during sports activities with elbow pads).
  • Anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Antibiotic medications to treat an infection if present.
  • Surgery to drain or remove the bursa.


ę Copyright 2015 Dr. Allan Rosen MD