Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 134, Issue 11, pp 1517–1536 | Cite as

Treatment of olecranon bursitis: a systematic review

  • Eli T. Sayegh
  • Robert J. Strauch
Orthopaedic Surgery



The optimal management of olecranon bursitis is ill-defined. The purposes of this review were to systematically evaluate clinical outcomes for aseptic versus septic bursitis, compare surgical versus nonsurgical management, and examine the roles of corticosteroid injection and aspiration in aseptic bursitis.

Materials and Methods

The English-language literature was searched using PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Physiotherapy Evidence Database, Allied and Complementary Medicine, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Analyses were performed for clinical resolution and complications after treatment of aseptic and/or septic olecranon bursitis.


Twenty-nine studies containing 1278 patients were included. Compared with septic bursitis, aseptic bursitis was associated with a significantly higher overall complication rate (p = 0.0108). Surgical management was less likely to clinically resolve septic or aseptic bursitis (p = 0.0476), and demonstrated higher rates of overall complications (p = 0.0117), persistent drainage (p = 0.0194), and bursal infection (p = 0.0060) than nonsurgical management. Corticosteroid injection for aseptic bursitis was associated with increased overall complications (p = 0.0458) and skin atrophy (p = 0.0261). Aspiration did not increase the risk of bursal infection for aseptic bursitis.


Based primarily on level IV evidence, nonsurgical management of olecranon bursitis is significantly more effective and safer than surgical management. The clinical course of aseptic bursitis appears to be more complicated than that of septic bursitis. Corticosteroid injection is associated with significant risks without improving the outcome of aseptic bursitis.

Level of evidence

Therapeutic IV.


Olecranon Elbow Septic bursitis Aseptic bursitis Treatment Management 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryColumbia University Medical CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryColumbia University Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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