Elbow Bursitis Surgery

What Is It?

Elbow bursitis surgery is used to treat bursitis caused by infection if less invasive treatments, such as antibiotic treatment and removing fluid from the bursa, have not helped relieve symptoms. Surgery is rarely used for noninfectious bursitis.


Elbow bursitis occurs in the olecranon bursa, a thin, fluid-filled sac that is located at the boney tip of the elbow (the olecranon).

There are many bursae located throughout the body that act as cushions between bones and soft tissues, such as skin. They contain a small amount of lubricating fluid that allows the soft tissues to move freely over the underlying bone.

Normally, the olecranon bursa is flat. If it becomes irritated or inflamed, more fluid will accumulate in the bursa and bursitis will develop. Source: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org


Swelling is usually the first symptom. In some cases, the swelling flares up quickly. As the swelling gets bigger, it can look like a golf ball at the tip of the elbow.

As the bursa stretches, it can cause pain in the elbow, especially when bent. There is usually no pain when the elbow is extended. But some with elbow bursitis do not feel any pain.

If the bursa becomes infected there may be redness or warmth. In some cases, pus or cloudy fluid can drain from an infected bursa.


If elbow bursa is not infected, then rest and pain medicine should reduce symptoms. If infected, antibiotics or draining fluid from the bursa may be necessary.

If elbow bursitis is not getting better despite medicine and treatment, surgery is recommended. Depending on severity, the entire bursa may be removed. An overnight stay may be required. The bursa usually grows back normally after several months.

Postoperative Care and Recovery

The incision should heal within two weeks after the surgery with use of the elbow a month or so after. The elbow may need to be padded or protected for several months to prevent injury.

Risks and Complications

As with all surgery, risks and complications can occur, but the risk factors are very low. There will be a considerable empty space left behind where the enlarged bursa once was. This space often fills with blood and fluid after the operation. Additional visits to have fluid drained may be necessary.