Bursitis of the Elbow— Popeye Elbow

Elbow bursitis is a fluid filled sac at the tip of the elbow due to trauma, infection, or inflammation. Because of the swelling and the bump that develops at the tip of the elbow, this is sometimes referred to as a “Popeye elbow” (Figure 1).

The normal olecranon bursa provides protection and decreases friction to the elbow joint and contains a little fluid (Figure 2).

Olecranon bursitis causes pain, swelling, tenderness, and a lump in the area at the tip of the elbow. It may be very difficult to put the elbow down on a surface due to the tenderness.

Bursitis of the elbow can occur due to:

· Trauma

o Blow to the tip of the elbow causing swelling and fluid build up

o Repeated stress and friction at the tip of the elbow

· Infection

· Inflammation

· Medical conditions

o Gout

o Rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment for elbow bursitis typically includes anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics if an infection is suspected, ice therapy, and aspiration—the fluid should be sent away to be tested for cell count, cultures, and crystals (Figure 3). Surgery in the form of debridement and excision of the bursa may be necessary. Protective covering should be placed around the elbow while avoiding activities that aggravate the condition.

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