What is a bursectomy?

A bursectomy is a procedure performed by orthopedic surgeons to remove an inflamed bursa between the joints.

A bursectomy is an orthopedic surgical procedure to remove an inflamed bursa, one of the fluid-filled pads between your joints. When a bursa becomes swollen and irritated, a condition called bursitis, it causes pain and restricts movement of the affected joint. While most patients improve with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy, those who continue to have problems or suffer from severe inflammation usually undergo surgery to drain the affected bursa.

Bursitis is more common in joints that move repeatedly, such as the knee.

Bursectomies are most commonly performed on joints that move repeatedly, including knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows. Less common locations include the heel and big toe. The operation is usually a minimally invasive procedure, and most patients do not have general anesthesia during surgery, although they are often given a topical anesthetic to numb the area. The surgeon uses a long, extremely thin needle to pierce the skin and puncture the swollen pouch. Once the needle is inside, the surgeon can drain excess fluid.

A bursectomy may be performed on the hip joint to drain excess fluid caused by bursitis.

Patients suffering from trochanteric bursitis, a chronic type of the disease that affects the hip joint, often require an arthroscopic bursectomy as it is often very difficult for the surgeon to reach the hip bursa with a needle. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your hip and places a small camera inside to help you drain the bursa with special surgical tools. The incision is closed after the fluid is completely drained.

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Those with an inflamed bursa can receive hot and cold therapy to reduce pain and inflammation.

In some cases, an infection is responsible for an inflamed bursa, so the drained fluid is often sent to a lab for testing after the procedure. Laboratory tests are performed to determine if there is an infection and, if so, what type of bacteria or virus is responsible. If an infection is identified, a medical professional may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications to prevent the condition from recurring.

A shoulder with pain and restricted movement may require a bursectomy.

Recovery from a bursectomy can take several weeks before the affected joint can rest. The bursae that cushion the main joints of the skeletal system can easily become irritated by repetitive motion. Allowing the affected joint to move as little as possible for several weeks after surgery minimizes the risk that the bursa will be further damaged during the healing process. Patients may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to take during recovery. After the joint has healed, most patients regain normal function, although therapy may be necessary to regain strength and prevent further injury.

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