Do blood growth factors offer additional benefit in refractory lateral epicondylitis? A prospective, randomized pilot trial of dry needling as a stand-alone procedure versus dry needling and autologous conditioned plasma

Skeletal Radiol. 2013 Nov;42(11):1515-20. doi: 10.1007/s00256-013-1691-7. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


Objective: To evaluate whether autologous conditioned plasma offers any therapeutic advantage over ultrasound-guided dry needling as a stand-alone procedure in the treatment of refractory lateral epicondylitis.

Materials and methods: Prospective, randomized pilot study of 28 patients (11 men, 17 women, mean age, 49.1 years) with refractory lateral epicondylitis (mean symptom duration, 19.1 months) who underwent either dry needling (n = 13) or dry needling combined with autologous conditioned plasma (ACP) injection (n = 15). Each patient received two separate injections (0 weeks and 1 month) and analysis of visual analogue pain scores (VAS) and Nirschl scores were performed pre-procedure, at 2 months and final evaluation at 6 months. Successful treatment was defined as more than a 25 % reduction in pain scores without re-intervention. Data was analyzed using the Mann-Whitney test and local research ethics committee approval was obtained.

Results: At 2 months, the mean VAS improvement was 0.85 (12.3 %) in the dry needling group compared to 2.19 (27.1 %) in the ACP group (p = 0.76) and there was a 5.83-point and 20.3-point Nirschl score improvement respectively (p = 0.72). At the final follow-up of 6 months, the mean VAS improvement was 2.37 (34 %) in the dry needling group compared to 3.92 (48.5 %) in the ACP group (p = 0.74) and there was a 22.5-point and 40-point Nirschl score improvement, respectively (p = 0.82).

Conclusions: There is a trend to greater clinical improvement in the short term for patients treated with additional ACP, however no significant difference between the two treatment groups was demonstrated at each follow-up interval. A larger, multicenter, randomized controlled trial is required to corroborate the results of this pilot study.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / instrumentation
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Arthralgia / diagnosis
  • Arthralgia / etiology*
  • Arthralgia / prevention & control*
  • Blood Component Transfusion / methods*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tennis Elbow / complications*
  • Tennis Elbow / diagnosis
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins