Close Window
Library Search Go Advanced Search
Español (Inicio)

HealthSheets™

Understanding Prepatellar Bursitis

Front view of normal knee joint showing prepatellar bursa.A bursa is a thin, slippery, sac-like film. It contains a small amount of fluid. This structure is found between bones and soft tissues in and around joints. A bursa cushions and protects a joint. It keeps parts of a joint from rubbing against each other.

The prepatellar bursa is found on top of the kneecap (patella). It lies just under the skin. If this bursa becomes irritated and inflamed, the condition is called prepatellar bursitis.

Causes of prepatellar bursitis

A common cause of this problem is repeated kneeling on the floor. For this reason, it is sometimes called housemaid’s knee. Injury from a blow to your kneecap can also cause it. Running on uneven ground may also play a role.

Symptoms of prepatellar bursitis

These may include:

  • Knee pain that gets worse with bending or pressure to the knee, and gets better with rest

  • Swelling over the kneecap

  • Tenderness or warmth over the kneecap

  • Crackling sound from the kneecap with movement

Treatment for prepatellar bursitis

This problem often gets better with rest and medicines. Other treatments may be needed. Possible treatments include:

  • Resting your knee. This allows the area to heal. It includes avoiding things that trigger symptoms.

  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines. These help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises. These help improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around the knee.

  • Cold packs or heat packs. These help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Physical therapy. This may include exercises, ultrasound, or other treatments.

  • Kneepads. These help protect your knees during sports.

  • Injection of medicine into the bursa or drainage of fluid from the bursa. These may help relieve symptoms.

For symptoms that don’t get better with these treatments, you may need surgery to remove the bursa.

Possible complications

  • If germs get into the bursa through a cut in your skin, the bursa may become infected. An infection is generally treated with antibiotic medicine. In some cases, the infected bursa must be removed.

  • If your knee isn’t given time to heal, this problem may become long-term (chronic). This can lead to trouble moving the knee joint.

 

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • Increased swelling or warmth of the area, or drainage from the area

  • Symptoms that don’t get better or get worse

  • New symptoms

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.