The Nirschl procedure versus arthroscopic extensor carpi radialis brevis débridement for lateral epicondylitis

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2017 Jan;26(1):118-124. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2016.09.022. Epub 2016 Oct 31.


Background: The Nirschl technique and arthroscopic débridement are common surgical procedures for chronic lateral elbow tendinopathy. The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes following the use of these techniques to treat chronic lateral elbow tendinopathy.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 59 elbows of 55 patients who did not improve after conservative treatment. Twenty-nine elbows of 26 patients were treated with the Nirschl procedure (Nirschl group), and 30 elbows of 29 patients were treated with arthroscopic débridement (arthroscopy group). Outcomes were assessed subjectively with the quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire and the visual analog scale (VAS) for pain in 3 domains (overall pain, pain at rest, and pain during hard work) and objectively with pain-free grip strength.

Results: The Nirschl and arthroscopy groups showed significant improvements in subjective and objective outcomes at a mean of 28.5 months and 31 months, respectively (P <.05). No significant between-group differences were found in postoperative outcomes, including quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire scores; pain-free grip strength; and VAS scores for overall pain and pain at rest (P > .05). However, a small but significant difference was found in the postoperative VAS score for pain during hard work (1.6 ± 1.3 for Nirschl group vs 2.2 ± 2.0 for arthroscopy group, P = .042).

Conclusions: Both techniques are comparable and highly effective for treating chronic recalcitrant lateral elbow tendinopathy. Although the Nirschl technique provides slightly superior pain relief during hard work, the effect size is very small and the difference does not appear to be clinically important.

Keywords: DASH; Nirschl; Tennis elbow; arthroscopy; comparative study; open surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Debridement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tennis Elbow / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome