Background: Prolotherapy is an alternative therapy for chronic musculoskeletal injury including joint laxity. The commonly used injectant, D-glucose (dextrose), is hypothesized to improve ligament mechanics and decrease pain through an inflammatory mechanism. No study has investigated the mechanical effects of prolotherapy on stretch-injured ligaments.
Hypotheses: Dextrose injections will enlarge cross-sectional area, decrease laxity, strengthen, and stiffen stretch-injured medial collateral ligaments (MCLs) compared with controls. Dextrose prolotherapy will increase collagen fibril diameter and density of stretch-injured MCLs.
Study design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Twenty-four rats were bilaterally MCL stretch-injured, and the induced laxity was measured. After 2 weeks, 32 MCLs were injected twice, 1 week apart, with either dextrose or saline control; 16 MCLs received no injection. Seven uninjured rats (14 MCLs) were additional controls. Two weeks after the second injection, ligament laxity, mechanical properties (n = 8), and collagen fibril diameter and density (n = 3) were assessed.
Results: The injury model created consistent ligament laxity (P < .05) that was not altered by dextrose injections. Cross-sectional area of dextrose-injected MCLs was increased 30% and 90% compared with saline and uninjured controls, respectively (P < .05). Collagen fibril diameter and density were decreased in injured ligaments compared with uninjured controls (P < .05), but collagen fibril characteristics were not different between injured groups.
Conclusion: Dextrose injections increased the cross-sectional area of MCLs compared with saline-injected and uninjured controls. Dextrose injections did not alter other measured properties in this model.
Clinical relevance: Our results suggest that clinical improvement from prolotherapy may not result from direct effects on ligament biomechanics.