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Elbow bursitis, also referred to as olecranon bursitis, is a condition in which fluid collects in the olecranon bursa. This sac fills with fluid when the bursa becomes inflamed. This can result in noticeable swelling and pain behind the elbow. Elbow bursitis treatment typically happens in a few steps.
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Draining the Bursa
Treatment begins by draining the bursa. The doctor will take a needle and gently insert it into the inflamed area and draw out the fluid. Once the fluid is removed, the patient will notice relief from his or her symptoms. Fluid can re-accumulate, however, so doctors often follow-up with a shot of cortisone.
Once the fluid is adequately drained, the doctor will take a needle of cortisone and inject it into the bursa. Cortisone will help to prevent this condition from reoccurring through suppressing the inflammatory response.
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Rest is a necessary step in the treatment process. Until the elbow is completely treated, the patient should rest the affected elbow. This involves avoiding lifting, strenuous activity, and pressure on the elbow. This will help in allowing the inflammation to subside.
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Oral anti-inflammatory medications are commonly recommended for patients as an elbow bursitis treatment. They may help in controlling some of the inflammation. They are most helpful in controlling and alleviating the patient's pain associated with this condition.
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In most cases, a splint is typically not needed, but for some patients it may be helpful. Those using immobilization must be careful, though, because it may result in the elbow joint freezing. If this method is used, it should only be used for a few days and the patient should be gently moving the joint to prevent freezing.
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If the doctor suspects an infection is present, the fluid he or she draws out of the bursa will be sent to the laboratory to be further analyzed. If an infection is present, the patient may experience fever, chills, redness around the bursa, sweating and pus within the bursa. The treatment for an infection is specific so all cases of elbow bursitis should be looked into for possible infection. If an infection is present, treatment typically include antibiotics and repeated drainage of the fluid. In some cases, the infected bursa will be removed through a surgical procedure.
Surgically removing the bursa may also be performed if the patient's elbow bursitis keeps coming back, though this is rarely necessary. Patients typically notice a little bump that feels like a marble for months following their episode of this condition. This is the thickened bursa scar that was once the bursa that was inflamed.
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American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2007). Elbow Bursitis. Retrieved on January 22, 2011 from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00028
Drugs.com. (2011). Elbow Bursitis. Retrieved on January 22, 2011 from Drugs.com: http://www.drugs.com/cg/elbow-bursitis.html