Calcific Bursitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

What is calcific bursitis?

A bursa is a thin fluid-filled sac that reduces friction forces between tissues of the body. Chronic (repeated or long-standing) inflammation of the bursa (bursitis) can lead to calcification of the bursa. This is referred to as "calcific bursitis." The calcium deposits (calcification) can occur as long as the inflammation is present and remain after it has resolved. Calcific bursitis occurs most commonly at the shoulder (in the bursa adjacent to the rotator cuff tendons) or hip (in the bursa at the greater trochanter).

What are causes and risk factors for calcific bursitis?

Calcific bursitis often has no direct cause that is identified and likely occurs in this setting after unnoticed strain of a joint caused local inflammation of the bursa (bursitis). Risk factors for developing calcific bursitis include joint injury (trauma) and underlying diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis and calcium pyrophosphate dehydrate deposition disease (pseudogout).

What are symptoms and signs of calcific bursitis?

Calcific bursitis may not cause any symptoms once the inflammation has subsided. Calcific bursitis typically leads to chronic pain, stiffness, and sometimes limited range of motion of the affected joint with use or when examined.

How is calcific bursitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of inflammation of the bursa (bursitis) can be made clinically based on the history and physical findings. Calcific bursitis is diagnosed when viewed with anX-ray test or MRI scan of the inflamed, painful bursa.

What is the treatment of calcific bursitis?

Treatment of the inflammation of calcific bursitis can help to prevent further calcification as well as relieve pain and stiffness. Treatments include medications for inflammation, cold packs, immobilization, injections of cortisone into the bursa, physical therapy, and occasionally surgery to remove the inflamed bursa and calcium deposit.

What is the prognosis of calcific bursitis?

When the inflammation is quieted, the long-term outlook (prognosis) is excellent. Optimal improvement can require physical therapy treatment. The calcium deposit can remain indefinitely and may not cause any problems. Significant calcium deposits can sometimes, however, cause a mechanically abrasive area of tenderness. These deposits that continue to cause symptoms are considered for surgical removal.

Is it possible to prevent calcific bursitis?

The prevention of calcific bursitis involves avoiding injury and reinjury to joints and treating any underlying medical condition (if present) that might increase the chances for developing calcific bursitis.


The term arthritis refers to stiffness in the joints. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2018
Klippel, John H., et al., eds. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases, 13th Ed. New York: Springer and Arthritis Foundation, 2008.