Prepatellar Bursitis (Kneecap Bursitis)

Prepatellar Bursitis

Bursae are small, jelly-like sacs containing a small amount of fluid that are found throughout the body. Their purpose is to be cushions that reduce friction where skin, muscles, or tendons slide over the bones. They are located in places like around the shoulder, elbow, knee, and heel.



Prepatellar bursitis refers to when the bursa in front of the kneecap becomes inflamed. When the bursa become irritated and produce too much fluid, they swell up. This puts pressure on the close by parts of the knee, causing pain.


Prepatellar Bursitis Causes

One of the most common causes of prepatellar bursitis is the pressure of constant kneeling. Certain professions like plumbers, roofers, carpet layers, and gardeners are at a high risk of developing the condition because of their kneeling, which is why the condition is sometimes referred to as carpenter’s knee. Repeated pressure and injury to the bursa can cause prepatellar bursitis over time.

Sustaining a direct blow to the knee can be another cause of this condition. Sports like football, wrestling, and basketball where falls on the knee occur can also put you at greater risk. In addition, people with rheumatoid arthritis or gout are more susceptible to developing prepatellar bursitis. 

Another less common cause is a bacterial infection. Sometimes a knee injury breaks the skin, making infection possible. If bacteria get inside the bursa sac, it can cause an infection. While this isn’t as common as the other causes, it is more serious and should get treated more quickly.


Prepatellar Bursitis Symptoms

Pain and swelling around the front of the kneecap will be the most common symptoms a patient will experience. If the problem has been occurring for a while, they may also be able to feel small lumps underneath the skin over the kneecap. The bumps are thickened folds of the bursa tissue that have formed because of chronic inflammation.

The bursa sac may also swell and fill with fluid at times. This often occurs when activity levels increase. People who are on their knees often will develop very thick bursa as the body tries to protect the knee from the pressure. The thickened bursa act like a knee pad. 

If the bursitis is caused by infection, you may have a fever and chills in addition to swelling and tenderness.  


Prepatellar Bursitis Treatment

If the bursa is inflamed but not infected, typically nonsurgical treatment will suffice. When it is caused by an injury, it will generally go away on its own as the body absorbs the blood in the bursa over a few weeks. 

Home remedies like modifying or avoiding activities that worsen bursitis symptoms will likely be recommended. You may be encouraged to swap out one of your activities for a more low-impact activity like cycling.

To reduce swelling, ice can be applied to the kneecap 3 or 4 times a day for 20 minutes each. You should notice the swelling going down significantly if you are also resting the knee.

Elevating the affected leg except when needed to walk is also recommended. Finally, NSAIDs may relieve some of your pain and help control the inflammation. For people who need to be on their knees for work, knee pads might be helpful in reducing pain.

If your bursitis doesn’t respond to these treatments, other measures may be performed. Draining the bursa with a needle and then injecting it with a steroid is common. The corticosteroid is stronger than a medication taken by mouth, so it could be more effective.

If the bursitis is the result of an infection, it will initially be treated with antibiotics. If results are not seen, surgical drainage may also be required. Occasionally, surgery may be required to remove a thickened bursa. If the bursitis is restricting activity, a small incision will be made to remove the swollen bursa.


Prepatellar Bursitis at OAR

The staff at Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside is ready to diagnose and treat prepatellar bursitis. We will ensure that the proper treatment is recommended and work with you to get yourself back to your usual activities.


Contact us today!