The bursa is a normal structure that is found in the posterior aspect of the elbow. It acts as a lubricating tissue between the triceps tendon and the skin to allow proper gliding of the respective muscle. Sometimes with direct trauma and/or inflammation from an infection, this bursa can secrete more fluid than usual and there is a significant swelling on the posterior aspect of the elbow.
This can often be the side of a golf ball. It there is erythema over the area, then one most suspect there is superficial cellulitis. Aspiration of the bursa should not be undertaken for the fear of introducing infection into a deeper level. If there is no evidence of erythema or redness about the elbow, then aspiration of the bursa can be done in an effort to drain the fluid and hopefully decrease the swelling. Often after drainage, an anti-inflammatory is administered for several days as well as a compressive bandage. It is not unusual to have to decompress the bursa with several aspirations over a period of several weeks. It is unusual to resort to surgical excision of the bursa, i.e., a bursectomy. This is usually only done in chronic cases in people with underlying diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and/or other arthritides or if there is an infective nature to the bursa.