Impact of autologous blood injections in treatment of mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy: double blind randomised controlled trial

BMJ. 2013 Apr 18:346:f2310. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f2310.


Objective: To assess the effectiveness of two peritendinous autologous blood injections in addition to a standardised eccentric calf strengthening programme in improving pain and function in patients with mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy.

Design: Single centre, participant and single assessor blinded, parallel group, randomised, controlled trial.

Setting: Single sports medicine clinic in New Zealand.

Participants: 53 adults (mean age 49, 53% men) with symptoms of unilateral mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy for at least three months. Participants were excluded if they had a history of previous Achilles tendon rupture or surgery or had undergone previous adjuvant treatments such as injectable therapies, glyceryl trinitrate patches, or extracorporeal shockwave therapy.

Interventions: All participants underwent two unguided peritendinous injections one month apart with a standardised protocol. The treatment group had 3 mL of their own whole blood injected while the control group had no substance injected (needling only). Participants in both groups carried out a standardised and monitored 12 week eccentric calf training programme. Follow-up was at one, two, three and six months.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the change in symptoms and function from baseline to six months with the Victorian Institute of Sport Assessment-Achilles (VISA-A) score. Secondary outcomes were the participant's perceived rehabilitation and their ability to return to sport.

Results: 26 participants were randomly assigned to the treatment group and 27 to the control group. In total, 50 (94%) completed the six month study, with 25 in each group. Clear and clinically worthwhile improvements in the VISA-A score were evident at six months in both the treatment (change in score 18.7, 95% confidence interval 12.3 to 25.1) and control (19.9, 13.6 to 26.2) groups. The overall effect of treatment was not significant (P=0.689) and the 95% confidence intervals at all points precluded clinically meaningful benefit or harm. There was no significant difference between groups in secondary outcomes or in the levels of compliance with the eccentric calf strengthening programme. No adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: The administration of two unguided peritendinous autologous blood injections one month apart, in addition to a standardised eccentric training programme, provides no additional benefit in the treatment of mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000824066, WHO U1111-1117-2641.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Blood Transfusion, Autologous / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Tendinopathy / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome