Prepatellar bursitis is a condition in which an area above the kneecap becomes inflamed and filled with fluid, causing a large and painful swelling. This condition occurs when the bursa, a lubricating sac used to facilitate free movement in the knee joint, becomes inflamed. It can turn into an infection, in which case aggressive treatment may be required. Often, a general practitioner can treat someone with prepatellar bursitis, as can a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
This condition is sometimes referred to as “housemaid's knee,” a reference to the fact that it often occurs in people who have occupations which require them to spend a lot of time kneeling. Carpet layers, masons, and similar professionals are also subject to prepatellar bursitis. People can also develop this condition when they sustain a sharp blow to the knee or fall on the knee, damaging the bursa and causing inflammation.
Prepatellar bursitis is very easy to identify, thanks to the painful swelling which may leave someone hobbling. The recommended treatment is rest, elevation of the leg, and applications of ice. If people continue working with the bursitis, they can increase the risk of infection and they may cause permanent damage. A period of rest is often enough to resolve the inflammation and many patients find that home care is sufficient to resolve the problem.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend draining the fluid-filled bursa if the patient is uncomfortable or a doctor is worried about infection. This can be done in a doctor's office as an outpatient procedure. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics if infection is suspected, or antiinflammatory drugs to bring down the swelling so that the patient will be more comfortable. Once the prepatellar bursitis is resolved, a doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of recurrence; repeated inflammation of the bursa can cause chronic problems.
Serious infections may require surgery to debride the area to remove infected and dead tissue. Chronic bursitis can also necessitate surgery to remove an inflamed or thickened bursa which causes chronic pain or irritation for the patient. The length of time needed to recover from surgery varies, depending on the procedure performed and the patient's level of general health. A surgeon can discuss the specific risks and benefits of surgery with a patient, based on the specifics of the patient's case. It may be a good idea to seek out a second opinion to get a more complete picture before making a decision about surgery.