(Removal of Bursa)
Michael Jubinville, MPH
A bursectomy is the removal of 1 or more bursas. The bursas are fluid-filled sacs near a joint. They help the joint work smoothly.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
The bursa helps muscle and tendons move smoothly over bones. If it is damaged movement can become very painful. The pain can make everyday activity difficult.
Most bursitis can be treated with conservative steps. This includes stopping stress to the area and medicine. Surgery may be done if other treatments are not helpful or bursitis keep returning.
Bursitis in the Shoulder
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Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Excess bleeding
- Blood clots
- Blood vessel or nerve damage
- Instrument breakage (rare)
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about things that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
The doctor will use tests that have already been done. This may include image and blood tests.
Before the procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about any medicine, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may need to stop taking some medicine up to a week before the procedure.
- Arrange for a ride home.
- You may be asked to stop foods and drinks the night before the procedure.
The type of anesthesia used depends on the affected joint and extent of the procedure. Options include:
- General—You will be asleep.
- Local—The area will be numbed.
- Spinal—A larger section of the body is numbed.
Description of the Procedure TOP
The procedure is done through an arthroscopy. Small cuts are made by the joint. A scope is passed through the holes. It has a camera that will let the doctor to see the area.
Tools can be passed through the scope. It will let the doctor remove the bursa and any scar tissue.
When the work is done, the holes will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the area to control swelling and prevent blood clots. A brace or sling may be needed to support the joint.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
It may take 30 minutes to up to 2 hours. The length will depend on the location of the bursa.
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There will be some discomfort after surgery. Medicine can help manage pain.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Care Center
Breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure will all be watched while you recover. An ice pack will be placed over the joint. It will help to decrease swelling.
The cuts will heal in a few days. It will take several weeks for the joint to fully heal. You may have to limit movement of the joint in the first few weeks.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain that cannot be controlled with the medications you were given
- Numbness or weakness in the affected joint or muscles
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Arthroscopy Association of North America
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Arthroscopy. American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
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Updated May 2010. Accessed January 2, 2019.
Olecranon bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114179/Olecranon-bursitis. Updated April 19, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
Pes Anserine bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115135/Pes-anserine-bursitis. Updated March 14, 2015. Accessed January 2, 2019.
Prepatellar bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114661/Prepatellar-bursitis. Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2018 by Warren Bodine, DO
Last Updated: 1/2/2019