Housemaid’s Knee (Knee Bursitis)

Housemaid’s knee is also known as prepatellar bursitis. It is caused by inflammation of a small fluid-filled sac (the bursa) in front of the kneecap. It more commonly occurs in people who spend long periods of time kneeling. Treatment is usually supportive only and the outlook is generally very good.

What is bursitis?
Bursitis means inflammation within a bursa. A bursa is a small sac of fluid with a thin lining. There are a number of bursae in the body. Bursae are normally found around joints and in places where ligaments and tendons pass over bones. They can also be found in other places if there has been unusual pressure or friction placed on that area.

Generally, the function of a bursa is to help reduce friction and allow maximal range of motion around joints. When there is inflammation within a bursa (bursitis), the bursa swells due to an increase in the amount of fluid within the bursa sac.

What is housemaid’s knee?
There are four bursae located around the knee joint. They are all prone to inflammation, or bursitis. However, the bursa in between the skin and the kneecap (the prepatellar bursa) is most commonly affected. Its position is shown in the diagram. Housemaid’s knee is the name given to inflammation of the prepatellar bursa.

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