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The Basics 

Olecranon (elbow) bursa is a fluid filled sac that is located between the ulna and the skin that acts as a protective barrier for the skin and soft tissues that are over the olecranon process. 

There are many factors that can lead to inflammation of this bursa such as trauma to the area or repetitive pressure on the bursa. Less commonly, the bursa can become infected from a break in the skin. 

Signs and symptoms 

Patients' with olecranon bursitis will often note swelling and tenderness to the posterior aspect of the elbow. If the elbow becomes red and warm to the touch, the bursa may be infected and urgent medical care is advised. 

The diagnosis of olecranon bursitis can be made by physical examination by a skilled provider. Occasionally, ultrasound may be used to confirm the diagnosis but is not required. 


Treatment of olecranon bursitis is most commonly with non-operative management. Elbow pads, topical anti-inflammatories, compression sleeves, activity modification and ice are the first line treatment. 

If bursitis persist despite the above conservative measures, your provider may recommend aspiration of the bursa and injection of a steroid medication. 

While most patients have success with managing olecranon bursitis non-operatively, operative management may be recommend for recurrent bursitis symptoms. A bursectomy can be performed in which the bursa will be removed in the operation room, this however is not needed in most cases. 

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