Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Doctors often can make a diagnosis of knee bursitis during a physical exam. Your doctor will inspect your knee by:

  • Comparing the condition of both knees, particularly if only one is painful
  • Gently pressing on different areas of your knee to detect warmth, swelling and the source of pain
  • Carefully moving your legs and knees into different positions to determine the range of motion in your knee joint and identify movement associated with pain

Imaging tests

To help rule out injuries that may cause signs and symptoms similar to those of bursitis, your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests:

  • X-ray. While they can't visualize bursae, X-rays may be useful in revealing a bone fracture, tumor or arthritis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of structures within your body. This technology is particularly good at visualizing soft tissues, such as bursae.
  • Ultrasound. Using sound waves to produce images in real time, ultrasound can help your doctor better visualize swelling in the affected bursa.


If your doctor suspects that you have an infection or gout in the bursa, he or she may obtain a sample of the bursa fluid for testing by inserting a needle into the affected area and draining some of the fluid.

April 24, 2014