Background: Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow is a common and disabling overuse syndrome. Several treatment modalities are currently available for this condition, but the optimal treatment method remains undefined. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) has been widely used in the last 10 years, although conflicting results are present in the literature.
Materials and methods: In this study, we evaluated 36 patients (37 elbows), with a mean follow-up time of 24.8 months. Focal ESWT was administered by means of an electromagnetic generator equipped with in-line ultrasound guidance, during one or more cycles of 3-4 weekly sessions. In the setting of the study, patients were clinically evaluated and subjective satisfaction and rate of relapse were investigated.
Results: A positive response was described in 75.7 % of the patients after treatment. Mean quickDASH score and VAS attested at 5.5 and 1.1, respectively. Roles and Maudsley score was rated as I or II in 33 cases. Four patients resulted not responders to the therapy, while 5 patients complained one or more episodes of symptoms relapse. No influence on the final outcome was evident with respect to demographic features and previous therapies as well. Response rate to further ESWT cycles in patients refractory to the first cycle of ESWT was 33.3 %.
Conclusions: Focal ESWT represents a valuable and safe solution in case of elbow lateral epicondylitis, both in newly diagnosed and previously treated cases, representing a definitive treatment in the majority of patients. Patients refractory to a 3- to 4-session ESWT cycle have lower chances of positive response after further ESWT cycles.
Keywords: Elbow; Extracorporeal shock wave therapy; Lateral epicondylitis; Tendonopathy.