Purpose: Most nonsurgical treatments for lateral epicondylitis have focused on suppressing an inflammatory process that does not actually exist in conditions of tendinosis. An injection of autologous blood might provide the necessary cellular and humoral mediators to induce a healing cascade. The purpose of this study was to evaluate prospectively the results of refractory lateral epicondylitis treated with autologous blood injections.
Method: Twenty-eight patients with lateral epicondylitis were injected with 2 mL of autologous blood under the extensor carpi radialis brevis. All patients had failed previous nonsurgical treatments including all or combinations of physical therapy, splinting, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and prior steroid injections. Patients kept personal logs and rated their pain (0-10) and categorized themselves according to Nirschl staging (0-7) daily.
Results: The average follow-up period was 9.5 months (range, 6-24 mo). After autologous blood injections the average pain score decreased from 7.8 to 2.3. The average Nirschl stage decreased from 6.5 to 2.0. For the 9 patients receiving more than one blood injection the mean pain score and Nirschl stage before injection were 7.2 and 6.6, respectively. After the second blood injection the pain and Nirschl scores were both 0.9. Two patients received a third blood injection that brought both pain and Nirschl scores to 0.
Conclusions: After autologous blood injection therapy 22 patients (79%) in whom nonsurgical modalities had failed were relieved completely of pain even during strenuous activity. This study offers encouraging results of an alternative minimally invasive treatment that addresses the pathophysiology of lateral epicondylitis that has failed traditional nonsurgical modalities.