Prepetellar Kneecap Bursitis

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Understanding Kneecap (Prepatellar) Bursitis

Kneecap (Prepatellar) Bursitis is a common and treatable condition that involves inflammation of knee bursae—small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the front of your knee joint. If you have sustained a direct injury to your knee or frequently put pressure on your knee joint and are experiencing swelling, stiffness, and pain at the front of your knee, Kneecap Bursitis may be the cause.

Below, we’ll provide an overview of Kneecap Bursitis and its treatment options. To learn more, make an appointment with our award-winning team of surgeons.

Definition and Significance

Bursae (singular bursa) are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion areas throughout the body where bones might otherwise rub on muscles, tendons, or skin. Adults have more than 150 bursae, 12 of which are located in and around the knee joint. Two of these bursae, the prepatellar bursa and the infrapatellar bursa, directly cushion the front of the knee.

When bursae are irritated, damaged, or infected, they create extra fluid which can result in pain, swelling, and limited range of motion. This is known as bursitis. Kneecap bursitis occurs when the prepatellar and/or infrapatellar bursae become inflamed.

Historical Context

Also known as Housemaid’s Knee, Carpet Layer’s Knee, or Clergyman’s Knee, chronic Kneecap Bursitis is common in individuals whose lifestyles or careers demand frequent and sustained pressure on the knee joints. The earliest known reference to Housemaid’s Knee and its management was documented in 1861.

Anatomy of the Knee Joint

The knee is a complex, weight-bearing joint that is held together and protected by many ligaments and soft tissue structures, as well as the patella (knee cap). The patella is cushioned by the prepatellar bursa, which is located directly in front of it. The infrapatellar bursa is also located at the front of the knee joint but below the patella.

Causes of Kneecap Bursitis

Kneecap bursitis can be acute (caused by a direct blow to the knee), chronic (caused by repeated stress and strain), septic (caused by infection), or related to a pre-existing medical condition.

Some common causes of Kneecap Bursitis are listed below:

Repetitive Stress and Injury

  • Frequent kneeling and/or crawling on hands and knees
  • Overuse of the knee joint (running, jumping, kicking, climbing stairs)
  • Development secondary to other knee conditions, such as tendonitis
  • The result of a direct trauma to the front of the knee joint

Medical Conditions

  • Infection of knee bursae (Infectious or Septic Bursitis) can occur if a wound or bug bite near the knee becomes infected or if an infection is spread from another bursa or part of the body. Infectious Bursitis can be dangerous to your health and requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Occasionally, Kneecap Bursitis can be the result of chronic medical conditions such as Gout or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Types of Kneecap Bursitis

Prepatellar Bursitis

Prepatellar Bursitis causes swelling and pain at the front of the knee.

Infrapatellar Bursitis

Infrapatellar Bursitis causes swelling and pain below the kneecap. Although this form is less common than prepatellar bursitis. 

Diagnosis of Kneecap Bursitis

Kneecap Bursitis is usually diagnosed by physical exam, though imaging tests such as X-rays, CT, or MRI may be used to rule out other potential causes of pain and swelling in the knee joint. If infection is suspected, aspiration of fluid inside the bursa sac may be indicated.

Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling at the front of the knee
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness in the knee joint
  • Pain during activity, and sometimes also at rest
  • Signs of a serious infection may include redness and warmth of the knee joint and/or fever. If you are experiencing such symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment Options for Kneecap Bursitis

Non-Surgical Treatments

The most common treatment approaches for are non-surgical and can include the following:

  • Rest (especially after physical activity)
  • Icing and elevation of the knee joint
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroid injections (in cases that aren’t responding to other treatment options)
  • Antibiotics (Infectious Bursitis only)

Surgical Treatments

Surgical treatments for Kneecap Bursitis are uncommon but may be indicated in severe cases. They include the surgical drainage or removal of bursae from the knee joint entirely.

Post-Treatment Rehabilitation

Physical Therapy

As patients recover from Kneecap Bursitis, regular physical therapy can help with soft tissue recovery and increase strength and range of motion in the knee joint.

Long-Term Management

The best way to manage Kneecap Bursitis over the long term is to reduce stress on the knee joints and the risk of injuries or infections. The following recommendations can help:

  • Wear knee pads when kneeling for long periods of time or when engaging in high-risk physical activities, such as contact sports.
  • Elevate knees and apply ice after exercising.
  • Avoid infection by keeping cuts and bug bites clean.

Ready to diagnose and properly treat your knee pain? Contact the exceptional team at Modern Orthopaedics of New Jersey to book an appointment today!

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