Suprapatellar bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa sac that protects the upper front portion of the knee joint. Commonly known as knee bursitis, this condition can significantly impact knee function, causing intense pain. In addition to self-care measures, suprapatellar bursitis may necessitate the use of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to alleviate symptoms. Cases that do not respond to traditional treatments may require surgery.
Located just over the knee cap, the suprapatellar bursa is one of the largest bursa sacs in the knee joint. Designed to cushion the joint and prevent friction, the suprapatellar bursa can easily become irritated and inflamed. In most cases, repetitive motion or a direct blow to the suprapatellar bursa will induce bursitis symptoms. Individuals who participate in sports, sustain direct trauma to the knee joint or develop an arthritic condition of the knee are considered at greatest risk for suprapatellar bursitis.
Attributable to the physical, tell-tale signs of suprapatellar bursitis, a diagnosis may be made with a visual examination. Those whose bursitis develops acutely or in the wake of a recent injury may undergo additional testing as a precautionary measure to rule out infection or other conditions. Imaging testing, such as ultrasound, is often used to evaluate the condition of the knee joint and its surrounding soft tissues. A procedure known as aspiration, which is the needled extraction of bursa fluid for laboratory analysis, may also be performed to check for markers indicative of infection.
Oftentimes, suprapatellar bursitis will present with signs similar to those associated with arthritic conditions. Inflammation will cause the knee joint to swell and hold heat; as a result, the knee will feel warm to the touch and its texture will have a spongy quality. The affected area will generally become tender to the touch and sensitive to pressure. Symptom progression can significantly impair knee function, forcing one to limit his or her physical activity accordingly. A pronounced worsening of symptoms accompanied by fever may be indicative of infection.
Mild cases of knee bursitis usually require no treatment beyond appropriate self-care measures, such as limiting knee use, applying cold compresses and taking an over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic medication. Some cases of suprapatellar bursitis may necessitate the injection of anti-inflammatory medication directly into the affected area. Antibiotic medications may also be used to eliminate infection. Additional treatment measures can include physical therapy to promote joint flexibility and the supplementary removal of excess fluid from the knee to help alleviate swelling.