Which physical findings are characteristic of prepatellar bursitis?

Updated: Dec 11, 2020
  • Author: Kristine M Lohr, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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In prepatellar bursitis, inflammation arises secondary to trauma or constant friction between the skin and the patella, most commonly when frequent forward kneeling is performed. Previously referred to as housemaid knee, it now is seen regularly in many other occupations, including carpet laying (carpet-layer knee), coal mining (beat knee), roofing, gardening, and plumbing. Bursitis may also develop 7-10 days after a single blow, such as a fall. Rheumatoid arthritis and gout may also be the cause of bursitis.

Prepatellar bursitis is often visualized as fluctuant, well-circumscribed warm edema over the lower pole of the patella. Knee flexion causes increased tension over the bursa and increased pain. The knee joint itself, however, is normal.

The superficial location of the prepatellar bursa allows easy introduction of microorganisms and predisposes to septic arthritis. Therefore, aspiration of fluid to rule out infection is highly recommended if any clinical suspicion is present.

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