Background: Elbow epicondylar tendinosis is a common problem that usually resolves with nonoperative treatments. When these measures fail, however, patients are interested in an alternative to surgical intervention.
Hypothesis: Treatment of chronic severe elbow tendinosis with buffered platelet-rich plasma will reduce pain and increase function in patients considering surgery for their problem.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: One hundred forty patients with elbow epicondylar pain were evaluated in this study. All these patients were initially given a standardized physical therapy protocol and a variety of other nonoperative treatments. Twenty of these patients had significant persistent pain for a mean of 15 months (mean, 82 of 100; range, 60-100 of 100 on a visual analog pain scale), despite these interventions. All patients were considering surgery. This cohort of patients who had failed nonoperative treatment was then given either a single percutaneous injection of platelet-rich plasma (active group, n = 15) or bupivacaine (control group, n = 5).
Results: Eight weeks after the treatment, the platelet-rich plasma patients noted 60% improvement in their visual analog pain scores versus 16% improvement in control patients (P =.001). Sixty percent (3 of 5) of the control subjects withdrew or sought other treatments after the 8-week period, preventing further direct analysis. Therefore, only the patients treated with platelet-rich plasma were available for continued evaluation. At 6 months, the patients treated with platelet-rich plasma noted 81% improvement in their visual analog pain scores (P =.0001). At final follow-up (mean, 25.6 months; range, 12-38 months), the platelet-rich plasma patients reported 93% reduction in pain compared with before the treatment (P <.0001).
Conclusion: Treatment of patients with chronic elbow tendinosis with buffered platelet-rich plasma reduced pain significantly in this pilot investigation. Further evaluation of this novel treatment is warranted. Finally, platelet-rich plasma should be considered before surgical intervention.