Surgery for Bursitis & Tendinitis

If symptoms of bursitis or tendinitis persist despite medical treatment and interfere with your everyday activities, NYU Langone doctors may recommend surgery. Surgical repair of a tendon, which is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone, may be required if tendinitis is diagnosed after a tendon has torn or separated from a bone. Surgeons may also remove inflamed tissue if medication has not reduced inflammation in bursae, which are small fluid-filled sac located between tendons and bones. 

Orthopaedic surgeons at NYU Langone’s Center for Musculoskeletal Care customize a surgical approach according to your symptoms and the extent of the injury. Most of the time, surgery for bursitis and tendinitis is performed using local anesthesia, and you can expect to return home the day of surgery.

Tendon Repair

As a tendon becomes inflamed, it gets weaker and more susceptible to injury, especially if physical activity continues after tendinitis has developed. At times, a tendon may tear partly or completely away from bone. A complete tendon tear is called a tendon rupture.

NYU Langone doctors may recommend surgery to repair a torn or ruptured tendon in order to relieve pain and other symptoms. The procedure can also prevent permanent weakness and further damage to the tendon. 

There are several surgical approaches to tendon repair, and the approach your surgeon recommends depends on the location of the injured tendon and other factors. Most of the time, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin above the injury to access the tendon. The surgeon uses specialized surgical instruments and sterile thread to reattach the torn ends of the tendon. If the tendon has separated completely from the bone, the surgeon may screw small plastic anchors into the bone and pull thread through these anchors and the tendon to hold it in place. The incision is closed with stitches.

Bursa Drainage and Removal

If a bursa becomes inflamed and does not respond to medical treatment of bursitis, a surgeon may recommend a procedure that drains excess fluid from the bursa or removes the inflamed bursa altogether. In the first procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin over the affected area and drains the excess fluid from the bursa. 

If the bursa is severely damaged, the surgeon may remove the entire inflamed sac. The incision is closed with stitches. Removal of a bursa does not affect the way the muscles or joints work and can permanently relieve the pain and swelling caused by bursitis.

What to Expect After Surgery

After surgery, our doctors advise you how to care for the affected part of the body as it heals. If you are recovering from bursitis or tendinitis of the hip, knee, or heel, our doctors may recommend crutches and, possibly, a brace for a week or two, so that the area can heal without bearing your body’s weight. If the shoulder or elbow is affected, doctors may provide a sling to stabilize the arm for up to 10 days. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription pain medication to help you remain comfortable during the first week of recovery. 

NYU Langone doctors schedule a follow-up visit one to two weeks after surgery to monitor healing. If stitches were used, doctors remove them during this visit. A second follow-up visit typically occurs four to six weeks later. Often, physical therapy begins around this time. The timeline for recovery is different for everyone, and our doctors work with you to recommend next steps based on the extent of the injury and how quickly the tendon or bursa is healing.

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