Background: Animal studies have shown that local application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) stimulates tendon repair. Preliminary results from a retrospective case series have shown faster return to sports.
Hypothesis: Autologous PRP stimulates healing of acute Achilles tendon ruptures.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: Thirty patients were recruited consecutively. During surgery, tantalum beads were implanted in the Achilles tendon proximal and distal to the rupture. Before skin suture, randomization was performed, and 16 patients were injected with 10 mL PRP (10 times higher platelet concentration than peripheral blood) whereas 14 were not. With 3-dimensional radiographs (roentgen stereophotogrammetric analysis; RSA), the distance between the beads was measured at 7, 19, and 52 weeks while the patient resisted different dorsal flexion moments over the ankle joint, thereby estimating tendon strain per load. An estimate of elasticity modulus was calculated using callus dimensions from computed tomography. At 1 year, functional outcome was evaluated, including the heel raise index and Achilles Tendon Total Rupture Score. The primary effect variables were elasticity modulus at 7 weeks and heel raise index at 1 year.
Results: The mechanical variables showed a large degree of variation between patients that could not be explained by measuring error. No significant group differences in elasticity modulus could be shown. There was no significant difference in heel raise index. The Achilles Tendon Total Rupture Score was lower in the PRP group, suggesting a detrimental effect. There was a correlation between the elasticity modulus at 7 and 19 weeks and the heel raise index at 52 weeks.
Conclusion: The results suggest that PRP is not useful for treatment of Achilles tendon ruptures. The variation in elasticity modulus provides biologically relevant information, although it is unclear how early biomechanics is connected to late clinical results.