A bursectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves removing an injured or infected bursa. This is a small fluid-filled sac that protects the joints and enables them to move more efficiently. A bursectomy can achieve long-term relief for those who struggle with joint pain.
Use this guide to learn more about the bursa and when a bursectomy may be necessary.
Your joints are complicated structures that require the cooperation of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues. They allow your body to move and perform everyday activities.
A tiny fluid-filled sac, known as a bursa, is located between soft tissues and your bones. The membranes of these sacs are filled with synovial fluid. This thick substance helps to cushion the bone and reduce friction on the joints. This fluid also delivers nutrients and removes waste from nearby soft tissues.
When the synovial membrane of a bursa becomes inflamed, this results in a condition known as bursitis. During bursitis, the bursa creates excess synovial which is thicker than usual. This causes the bursa to swell. Inflammation can be caused by excessive friction, a joint injury, infections, or certain types of arthritis.
This condition is common in the hip, elbow, shoulder, big toe, and Achilles tendon. Symptoms include joint pain and stiffness, swelling, restricted movements, and possibly a fever.
Conservative treatments like anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, or physical therapy are often the first line of defense for bursitis. If the pain persists, a minimally invasive procedure, known as a bursectomy, may be necessary.
During a bursectomy, an orthopedic doctor applies local anesthesia to the affected area. Using a small incision, the inflamed bursa is opened. The doctor places a small draining tube in the area to remove excess fluid. This draining tube may stay in the body for a few days. During that time, antibiotic medications are given to prevent infection.
Sometimes simply draining the fluid doesn’t help relieve pain. At this point, the orthopedic doctor may elect to remove some or all of the inflamed bursa. If the doctor removes only part of the bursa, there is a chance it will grow back to its normal size.
For those suffering from hip bursitis, the doctor may elect to perform an arthroscopic bursectomy. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a tiny camera, known as an arthroscope, into the affected hip. Using images from a nearby screen, the doctor can use special tools to drain any excess fluid or remove the bursa from surrounding soft tissues.
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A bursectomy can provide long-term relief for those who suffer from bursitis symptoms. If you haven’t responded to more conservative treatments, this procedure can help relieve pain and regain mobility.
Athletes may benefit from this procedure if they continue to experience bursitis symptoms while playing the sport they love. In addition, those with septic bursitis—a bacterial infection of the bursa—may need the excess pus to be drained for a period of time. Those with a more aggressive infection sometimes need the bursa to be removed so the infection doesn’t spread or keep coming back.
A bursectomy is a minimally invasive procedure. A smaller incision means less scarring and damage to the body. Since the doctor does not need to use more traditional open surgery, you could expect less pain and a faster recovery time. This means you can be back to doing what you love quicker and with fewer pain medications.
A bursectomy is typically an outpatient procedure. This means you can return home the same day. In many cases, the doctor prescribes pain medications and antibiotics after the procedure. You will need to rest the area for up to a few weeks. This depends on the area and severity of your bursitis.
After a bursectomy, physical therapy may be necessary. This helps to strengthen and restore function to the joint and surrounding soft tissues. A physical therapist performs manual manipulations and prescribes a set of exercises you can do at home. In some cases, you may need a brace or other assistive device to keep pressure off the area.
Many people can expect a full recovery in 4 to 6 weeks.
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If your joint swelling or pain persists after resting the area or using over-the-counter medications, you should consult with a doctor. Diagnosing bursitis usually involves a review of your medical history and a complete physical examination. During the physical exam, the doctor presses on spots around the affected joint to determine if your bursa is responsible for the pain.
The doctor will ask about the onset of your symptoms and what activities make them worse.
Sometimes a doctor orders imaging tests like x-rays or MRIs to take a closer look at the affected area. In addition, lab tests may be ordered to find out the cause of your inflammation.
Once a thorough examination is complete, your doctor will suggest the best course of action to help relieve your bursitis symptoms.
Here are some of the common conditions a bursectomy may help:
Are you tired of giving up the things you love due to pain? NJ Spine & Orthopedic wants to help you once again enjoy the life you desire. We understand how pain affects your life. This is why we want to empower you with the knowledge and resources to once again live pain-free.
Our experienced team of orthopedic doctors and therapists will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment options. We will accurately diagnosis your joint pain and find the most conservative approaches to help you. If surgery is required, our doctors at NJ Spine & Orthopedic specialize in the latest minimally invasive techniques that are proven to deliver less pain and faster recovery times than open surgery.
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