Knee Bursae: Locations & Anatomy

Instructor: Charity Hacker

I am a nursing instructor with over 20 years of nursing experience and a Masters Degree in Nursing Education.

Have you ever heard of a knee? Of course, you have. How about knee bursae? In this lesson, we are going to talk about the knee bursae, as well as their locations and anatomy.

Introduction to Knee Bursae

Have you ever thought about how much of a beating your knee joints take? I mean really thought about it? Here you have a single point where two of the large leg bones and the knee cap meet in one spot. Together these joints support most of the weight of the body as well as the repetitive impacts that come with mobility. You start to wonder, how DO knee joints last so long? The answer is bursae!

Anatomy of the Knee Bursae

A bursa is a small sac made of fibrous tissue that has an inner lining of synovial type membrane. It is filled with synovial fluid, or lubricant, made by the membrane. Bursae, plural for bursa, are located at certain points where there is a tendon on top and a bone beneath it. The bursae act as cushions and provide lubrication for the joint.

Locations of the Knee Bursae

There are multiple bursae in a knee joint. You are probably wondering for such a small room, where are all those pillows going? Let's try to pinpoint exactly where and how, so much hardware goes into this one joint, the knee.

There are five primary bursae that protect the knee joint. They are the: prepatellar, infrapatellar, suprapatellar, Pes Anserine, and the semimembranosus bursae.

  • The prepatellar bursa is located in front of the knee cap. Pre means before in Latin and patella is the medical term for knee cap. So this bursa comes before the knee cap.
  • The infrapatellar bursae, we say bursae because there are two of them located under the knee cap. One is called the deep infrapatellar bursa and the other is the superficial infrapatellar bursa.
  • The suprapatellar bursa is found above the knee cap. Supra means above in Latin. It is located at the bottom of the thigh, between the quadricep tendon and the femur bone.
  • The Pes Anserine bursa is located on the inner lower side of the knee joint. It provides cushioning between tendons and a ligament. Runners and swimmers often suffer from irritation of this joint.
  • The semimebranosus bursa is also located at the back of the knee. It provides cushioning between one of the hamstring muscles and one of the calf muscles. When this bursa is irritated we call it a Baker's cyst.

Some of the main bursae of the knee.
Picture of knee bursae.

There are other bursae in the knee that can be classified by their locations; anteriorly (front), medially (on the side of the knee closest to the middle of the body), and laterally (on the side of the knee farthest from the middle of the body).

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