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What is Arthroscopic Bursectomy?

Bursectomy is the surgical removal of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac around the muscles, tendons, and bones of the joints that helps minimize friction and irritation. Bursectomy is usually performed arthroscopically as a minimally invasive procedure. An arthroscope is a small, fiber-optic instrument consisting of a lens, light source, and video camera. The camera projects images of the inside of the joint onto a monitor, allowing your surgeon to assess any damage and perform a repair.


Arthroscopic bursectomy is indicated for bursitis, irritation and inflammation of the bursae of a joint, that has responded to conservative treatments such as medication, therapy, steroid injections or rest.


Your doctor will advise you on any medications you need to stop taking prior to the procedure. You should tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medicines or anesthesia. Your medical history will be taken, and tests may be conducted such as X-ray, CT-scan or MRI. Certain blood tests may also be ordered.  You may also be instructed to avoid smoking and alcohol for several days prior to surgery.

Surgical Procedure

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia or regional anesthesia and involves the following steps:

  • Arthroscopic portals are inserted through a small incision at the joint.
  • Your surgeon performs diagnostic arthroscopy to view the inflamed bursae.
  • Special surgical instruments are inserted through another small incision.
  • Your surgeon carefully removes the inflamed bursae and any surrounding scar tissue. 
  • The incisions are closed and a bandage is applied.


Complications are few but can include:

  • Formation of blood clots (DVT)
  • Bleeding and infection 
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels

Recovery after Bursectomy

Your rehabilitation protocol may include:

  • A combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids to manage pain.
  • Your joint will be supported with a brace and you will be encouraged to keep weight off your leg for a short period. 
  • You are not allowed to lift heavy objects or perform any strenuous activity using the affected joint for a few weeks.
  • Physiotherapy exercises will be taught to enhance your flexibility, range of motion and strength.