Bursitis of the Knee: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Knee Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

A bursa is a soft sac filled with fluid and is located in the major joints of the body such as the shoulders, elbows, knees and hips. This sac allows for smooth movement between the various tissues surrounding the knee joint and avoids friction and the resultant damage to it.

A trauma, or infection, may cause the bursa to become excessively filled with fluid and result it in getting inflamed (swollen) and painful to move.

Causes of Knee Bursitis

A knee bursitis occurs when the front of the knee experiences a direct trauma, due to overuse of the joint or a sports injury, which results in the accumulation of blood in the bursa.

Bursitis can also occur in cases of rheumatoid arthritis as well as from deposits of crystals as seen in patients suffering from pseudo-gout and gouty arthritis.

The front (pre-patellar) bursa can also become infected with bacteria and cause septic bursitis. This is most often caused due to an infection resulting from a break in the skin or a puncture wound.

Signs and Symptoms of Knee Bursitis

The most common symptom of knee bursitis is the swelling (inflammation) that accompanies it. This can be of varying degrees, from mild and unnoticeable to severe and obvious.

The other symptoms include:

  • Warmth and tenderness in the affected knee joint
  • Increasing pain
  • Stiffness of knee joint
  • Restriction of range of motion of knee joint 

Diagnosing Knee Bursitis

The most basic method for diagnosing a case of knee bursitis is a thorough physical examination. The doctor will look for obvious signs of swelling, tenderness and redness. The doctor will also move the knee joint slowly in order to check the restriction of the range of motion in the joint.

Treatment of Knee Bursitis

The knee bursitis is mainly treated using non-surgical methods such as rest, applying of ice packs and light exercising of the knee joint.

In case the bursitis is not caused by an infection then it can easily be treated using the resting and ice-pack method. Certain cases might also require painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines in order to relive the pain and swelling from the knee joint.

At times, the doctor might perform an ‘aspiration’ procedure which involves removing the excessive fluid from the bursa using a long and thin needle and syringe. Non-infectious knee bursitis can also be treated using cortisone injections to the swollen bursa.

Septic bursitis requires advanced diagnosis and treatment. The sample of the fluid is sent to the pathology laboratory in order to determine the type of microbe causing the infection in the knee bursa. An anti-biotic therapy can then be prescribed using intravenous methods in order to neutralize the effects of the septic bursitis-causing microbe. Regular aspiration may be required in this case to drain the bursa of excess fluid.

In extreme cases of knee bursitis, when the other treatment methods fail to address the problem, the doctor might ultimately recommend a bursectomy procedure. This surgical procedure involves draining of the severely affected bursa and its removal in order to avoid the infection from spreading further.

Results:

The treatment for knee bursitis is highly successful in most cases. Mild form of bursitis is known to resolve naturally on its own. More severe forms of bursitis, however, require medications (oral or intravenous) t o reduce the swelling (inflammation).

Most severe form of bursitis needs a surgical intervention in the form of a bursectomy (removal of bursa) to be treated successfully.

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