What is suprapatellar bursitis?

Suprapatellar bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa sac that protects the upper front part of the knee joint. Commonly known as knee bursitis, suprapatellar bursitis can significantly affect knee function, causing severe pain. In addition to self-care measures, suprapatellar bursitis may require the use of anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to relieve symptoms. Cases of suprapatellar bursitis that do not respond to traditional treatments may require surgery.

Located just above the patella, the suprapatellar bursa is one of the largest bursa sacs in the knee joint. Designed to cushion the joint and prevent friction, the suprapatellar bursa can easily become irritated and inflamed. In most cases, repetitive motion or a direct blow to the suprapatellar bursa will induce symptoms of bursitis. People who participate in sports, suffer direct trauma to the knee joint, or develop an arthritic condition of the knee are considered to be at higher risk for suprapatellar bursitis.

Attributable to the telltale physical signs of suprapatellar bursitis, a diagnosis can be made with a visual examination. Those whose bursitis develops acutely or as a result of a recent injury may undergo additional testing as a precaution to rule out infection or other conditions. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, are often used to assess the condition of the knee joint and its surrounding soft tissues. A procedure known as aspiration, which is the needle removal of fluid from the bursa for laboratory analysis, may also be performed to check for markers indicative of infection.

Suprapatellar bursitis will often present with signs similar to those associated with arthritic conditions. The inflammation will cause the knee joint to swell and retain heat; As a result, the knee will feel warm to the touch and its texture will have a spongy quality. The affected area will usually become tender to the touch and sensitive to pressure. Symptom progression can significantly affect knee function, forcing one to limit their physical activity accordingly. A pronounced worsening of symptoms accompanied by fever may be indicative of infection.

Mild cases of knee bursitis usually do not require treatment beyond appropriate self-care measures, such as limiting use of the knee, applying cold compresses, and taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Some cases of suprapatellar bursitis may require injection of anti-inflammatory medications directly into the affected area. Antibiotic medications can also be used to clear the infection. Additional treatment measures may include physical therapy to promote joint flexibility and supplemental removal of excess fluid from the knee to help relieve swelling.

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