Written by Mariah Rossi and Dr.Emran
Dr. Emran talks about a previous patient, Johnny, who was a 56-year-old mechanic. He came into the Emergency Room with a swollen elbow and limited range of motion. He remembered bumping it on a table a few days prior. In the ER Dr.Emran took x-rays and ran a few labs, all of which came back normal. It was then clear after the physical exam that Johnny had Olecranon Bursitis.
The Olecranon is the pointy part of the elbow bone with no fat or muscle cushion that overlies it. A Bursa is a pocket of lubricant that allows muscles and bones to slide past each other easily, similar to ball bearings in moving parts of cars. A trauma to the Bursa can cause it to swell which leads to Bursitis. In this case, Johnny hit his elbow and developed Olecranon Bursitis.
To treat Johnny’s Olecranon Bursitis, Dr. Emran drained the fluid from the Bursa by injecting a needle into its deepest pocket. Johnny felt immediate relief. In more serious cases, the Bursa becomes infected causing a Septic Joint. Septic Joints have the potential for bacteria to eat away at the joint and cause complications for years.
Other signs to look for in Bursitis are fevers or pus which could indicate infection, numbness which could indicate nerve damage, or bruising which could indicate circulation issues.
Luckily, Johnny didn’t have any serious complications and was sent home with an Ace Bandage and some pain medications. In other cases, a steroid may need to be injected into the elbow to calm the swelling.
Some people are more at risk of developing Bursitis, especially if they engage in manual labor with repetitive movements. If Bursitis becomes recurrent it can lead to Chronic Bursitis, which impedes on a patient’s ability to work or engage in other physical activities. This requires a more in-depth treatment plan.
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