Noninvasive monopolar capacitive-coupled radiofrequency for the treatment of pain associated with lateral elbow tendinopathies: 1-year follow-up

PM R. 2012 Mar;4(3):176-81. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.11.003. Epub 2012 Feb 18.


Objective: To evaluate noninvasive monopolar capacitive-coupled radiofrequency (mcRF) for the treatment of pain associated with lateral elbow tendinopathies.

Design: Prospective, single-center, single-arm, 1-year follow-up.

Setting: Private sports medicine practice.

Participants: Thirty-nine consecutive patients with diagnosis of lateral elbow tendinopathy (including 3 bilateral cases, for a total of 42 elbows) participated in the study. All patients had been unsuccessfully treated with a variety of nonoperative therapies (eg, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injections, and braces) for at least 3 months before they were enrolled in the study.

Intervention: Patients were treated with mcRF technology in the office without local anesthetic or any particular preparation. Anatomic landmarks and careful determination of the most tender point defined the area treated; rapid and precise mcRF pulses were delivered covering the area in a staggered fashion; and 10 additional pulses were delivered directly to the point of maximum tenderness (total of 100 pulses). Patients returned to activities of daily living without restriction and were instructed to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or ice over the treated area. Physical therapy or other treatment modalities were disallowed.

Results: The presence of pain before enrollment ranged from 15 weeks to 2 years (average, 32 weeks). Visual analog scores at rest, with regular activity, and with triggering events were gathered at 3, 6, and 12 months. The Nirschl Tennis Elbow Questionnaire and patient satisfaction also were used to evaluate study outcomes. Follow-up average was 423 days (range, 330-487 days). On the basis of the study's multifactorial success criteria, 81% of participants had successful outcomes. Furthermore, 89% of the patients who completed the study were completely or moderately satisfied with the outcome.

Conclusions: Outcomes of this study suggest that noninvasive mcRF may have a role in the treatment of pain associated with lateral elbow tendinopathies. The noninvasive nature of the procedure and the safety and efficacy suggested by this study may offer significant advantages over current treatment alternatives. Further research in the form of a randomized clinical trial is recommended.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthralgia / etiology
  • Arthralgia / physiopathology
  • Arthralgia / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Elbow Joint / physiopathology
  • Elbow Joint / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tendinopathy / complications
  • Tendinopathy / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult