Treatment for bursitis can take a number of different forms depending on the exact cause of your condition.
If your bursitis is causing a fluid build-up, you may be recommended to have the swelling drained. This procedure, called aspiration, can help relieve pain and allow movement in the joint to improve.
Corticosteroid (cortisone) injections
With more severe or longer-term symptoms, a corticosteroid injection may be recommended. The injection, containing steroids, can help to reduce the inflammation caused by bursitis. This will not be suitable if you have septic bursitis, and you can’t be given more than three of these injections per year to treat the same joint.
In some cases, when other treatments have not proved successful, surgery may be recommended. In this procedure the affected fluid-filled sac (bursa) is either removed completely or fluid is drained from the sac. Surgery to remove infected bursa may be the only way to treat cases of septic bursitis, where the infection does not respond to antibiotics.
These procedures are usually carried out as day surgery which means you’ll be able to return home on the same day, but you may not be able to drive yourself. A local anaesthetic will be used to numb the area of the operation.
During aspiration, the surgeon will use a fine needle to draw out fluid from the swelling, before covering the area with a dressing. A corticosteroid injection is made directly into the affected area. Surgery to remove an abnormal bursa may be carried out either under open surgery or, alternatively using ‘keyhole’ surgery (using an ‘endoscope). The operation to remove a bursa (usually because it is inflamed or infected) is called a bursectomy. The bursa will grow back normally after a few weeks.
Immediately after surgery we’ll help manage any discomfort with painkillers. You'll need to avoid strenuous activity for a couple of days after aspiration or an injection, or for a longer period after surgery. We’ll give you physiotherapy instructions before you leave hospital to help your recovery and long-term improvement.
The pain associated with your condition should improve over a few weeks, but any swelling may take longer to disappear completely.
The exact length of your recovery period will depend on the location of your bursitis and if it is caused by an infection (septic bursitis).
As with any surgical procedure there is some risk of infection of the wound, or bleeding after the operation. Rarely, there can be damage to tendons or nerves. The procedures are usually very successful treatment for bursitis, but it’s not uncommon for symptoms to recur.
A possible side effect of a corticosteroid injection is the wasting away of surrounding tissue and possible skin discolouration around the site of the injection.