Introduction There are various therapeutic approaches to the treatment of lateral epicondylitis, a highly prevalent musculoskeletal disorder. Recently, injection therapy with autologous conditioned plasma (ACP) has shown promise as a new approach. Methods Set up as a prospective, double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial, this study involved 50 patients with lateral epicondylitis. Following external randomization, 25 patients received one round of injection therapy with ACP (platelet rich plasma, PRP), while the remaining 25 patients received a placebo of 0.9 % NaCl. All patients were re-evaluated with respect to lateral epicondylitis of the elbow at four-weeks and six-months post-injection. Results Out of 50 patients, 36 qualified for reevaluation, 18 patients from the ACP therapy group and 18 from the placebo group. The initial Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score for all reevaluated patients was 36.4 in the ACP group, and 41.0 in the placebo group; both groups exhibited decreased DASH scores at the four-week and six-month post-injection follow-up (6 months: ACP 30.1, placebo 25.8). The decrease of the DASH score after 4 weeks was greater and qualified as statistically significant in the placebo group (p = 0.041), compared to the DASH score decrease in the ACP treatment group, which was statistically non-significant. Additionally, the difference between the DASH scores of the treatment and placebo groups was statistically non-significant four weeks and six months after treatment. Discussion The results of this study suggest a therapeutic effect in both the ACP and placebo groups, with no evidence for a therapeutically significant difference between ACP and placebo treatments. It is hypothesized that, in accordance with the study protocols, injection with a local anaesthetic prior to ACP therapy may have an influence on the therapeutic effect of ACP. Future studies have to confirm recent findings that demonstrated a minimizing, or even inhibiting, action of local anaesthetics on the effects of ACP/PRP. Conclusion The effect of ACP/PRP injections needs to be investigated in future studies under standardized conditions.
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