Swollen Knee

The knee can swell up due to various reasons, either gradually due to a chronic condition or abruptly due to trauma or injury.  Swelling can occur from within the knee or from the adjoining ligaments depending on the cause.


Swelling occurs in an arthritic knee due to accumulation of excess fluid in the joint.  This can be due to activity, infection, injury or an existing medical condition.


Pre-patellar bursitis, also termed as housemaid’s knee, occurs when excess fluid accumulates in the bursa, a thin sac of fluid above the patella.  This can either happen due to trauma or strain which causes the knee to swell up and become painful.  The excess fluid needs to be drained if the swelling does not settle after rest or infection is suspected.  Drainage can be done as an outpatient and the fluid cultured for signs of infection which if proven positive will need antibiotics.  There could be recurrent swelling even after draining the bursa so the bursa may need to be removed to prevent recurrence.


Gout is an inflammatory condition affecting the joint which leads to pain, redness and swelling.  This happens when there is accumulation of uric-acid crystals in the joint.  Symptoms of pseudogout are similar but are caused by accumulation of calcium crystals.

Episodes of gout are usually of sudden onset resulting in swelling in one or more joints.  Alcohol, medication, certain foods are known to cause this but at times the cause can be undetectable.

Gout is diagnosed by analysing the fluid from a joint in the laboratory to see if it contains crystals.  Once gout or pseudogout is confirmed, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or antihyperuricemic agents are prescribed for mild attacks but injections are needed for moderate to severe attacks.


Any direct trauma to the knee can cause swelling.  A small amount of fluid is taken from the knee to check if it contains blood.  Blood can accumulate in the knee due to a torn ligament, most probably the anterior cruciate ligament, or a fracture.  Swelling occurs almost immediately.  If the fluid does not contain blood, then it can either be a ligament sprain or a meniscal tear.  Other investigations are also done to check for structural damage.  Surgery may not be necessary and the knee can be treated by conservative measures alone.  Your Consultant will advise on a proper course of action.

If there is no blood in the fluid, this can indicate a meniscal tear or a ligament sprain.  The swelling will start quickly, within hours of the injury.

Assessment of the knee following an injury is advisable to test if there is blood in the fluid and to check for damage.  Surgery is not always required and your Consultant will advise you on the most suitable investigation and treatment plan for the type of injury and your activity levels.

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If you want to obtain more information on swollen knee or if you want to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Our team of professional surgeons and nurses are dedicated to answer any queries you may have and will book for you an appointment with a Consultant Knee Surgeon.

You can contact us on 98450-54810 or email us at [email protected]