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Condition/Disorder Synonyms

  • Elbow bursitis

  • Student's elbow

  • Draftsman's elbow

  • Miner's elbow

ICD-9-CM Code

  • 726.33 Olecranon bursitis

ICD-10-CM Code

  • M70.20 Olecranon bursitis, unspecified elbow

Preferred Practice Pattern1

  • 4E: Impaired Joint Mobility, Motor Function, Muscle Performance, and Range of Motion Associated With Localized Inflammation

Key Features


  • Localized inflammation of the olecranon bursa, which is a subcutaneous bursa at the olecranon process of the elbow

  • Bursa fills with blood and serous fluid as a response to either acute or repeated microtrauma

  • Presents as pronounced, local swelling, isolated to the posterior elbow

Essentials of Diagnosis

  • Olecranon bursitis (OB) is a result of single episode of trauma or repeat trauma to the posterior elbow when the elbow is in a flexed position

  • Commonly related to occupation or specific activity that causes rubbing or pressure on the posterior elbow from a hard surface

  • Swelling is contained to olecranon bursa which results in the visualization of an “egg” appearance at the posterior elbow

  • Patients often note focal pain to palpation of swollen bursa, decreased range of motion, or inability to don a long-sleeved shirt

  • Differential diagnosis is essential due to prevalence of infections in this area

  • Exquisite swelling, marked tenderness, and redness or heat may be indicative of differential diagnosis

General Considerations

  • Isolated diagnosis related to acute or chronic activity (pressure to the posterior elbow by a hard surface) and focal swelling/pain to the olecranon bursa

  • Marked tenderness or swelling with acute onset may signal underlying fracture

  • Redness or heat may be indicative of infection


  • No reports identifying or limiting demographics. Incidence related to activity.

  • Occurs primarily in adults, but can occur in children and athletes of any age

  • Chronic cases often associated with occupation (miner) or prolonged activity (student), which places posterior elbow on hard surface

  • Acute cases often associated with acute blow to the posterior elbow when flexed (athletes)

Clinical Findings

Signs and Symptoms

  • Point tenderness to the posterior elbow

  • Focal swelling to the posterior elbow

  • Stiffness of elbow

  • Pain with rubbing or light pressure to posterior elbow (wearing long sleeve shirt)

  • Pain with focal pressure (leaning on desk with bent elbow)

  • Elbow range of motion can be reduced, either flexion, extension, or both

  • Pain and swelling can be either insidious or acute

  • Occasionally, swelling can be spontaneous and without pain

  • Possible reduction in strength due to pain and inflammation

Functional Limitations

  • Difficulty with dressing, grooming, reaching due to decreased elbow range of motion

  • Pain with sitting or leaning postures due to contact on the posterior elbow

  • Pain with movements of the hand and wrist


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