Platelet-Rich Plasma in Patients With Partial-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears or Tendinopathy Leads to Significantly Improved Short-Term Pain Relief and Function Compared With Corticosteroid Injection: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial

Arthroscopy. 2021 Feb;37(2):510-517. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2020.10.037. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


Purpose: To perform a randomized controlled trial comparing platelet-rich plasma (PRP) with standard corticosteroid (CS) injection in providing pain relief and improved function in patients with rotator cuff tendinopathy and partial-thickness rotator cuff tears (PTRCTs).

Methods: This double-blind randomized controlled trial enrolled patients with ultrasound-proven or magnetic resonance imaging-proven PTRCTs who received either an ultrasound-guided PRP or CS injection. Patients completed patient-reported outcome assessments at baseline and at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 12 months after injection. The primary outcome was improvement in the visual analog scale (VAS) score for pain. Secondary outcomes included changes in American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) and Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index (WORC) scores. Treatment failure was defined as subsequent injection, consent to undergo surgery, or operative intervention.

Results: We followed up 99 patients (47 in the PRP group and 52 in the CS group) until 12 months after injection. There were no differences in baseline patient demographic characteristics including age, sex, or duration of symptoms. Despite randomization, patients in the PRP group had worse baseline VAS (46.0 vs 34.7, P = .01), ASES (53.9 vs 61.8, P = .02), and WORC (42.2 vs 49.5, P = .03) scores. At 3 months after injection, the PRP group had superior improvement in VAS (-13.6 vs 0.4, P = .03), ASES (13.0 vs 2.9, P = .02), and WORC (16.8 vs 5.8, P = .03) scores. There were no differences in patient-reported outcomes at 6 weeks or 12 months. There was no difference in the rate of failure (P = .31) or conversion to surgery (P = .83) between groups.

Conclusions: Patients with PTRCTs or tendinopathy experienced clinical improvement in pain and patient-reported outcome scores after both ultrasound-guided CS and PRP injections. Patients who received PRP obtained superior improvement in pain and function at short-term follow-up (3 months). There was no sustained benefit of PRP over CS at longer-term follow-up (12 months).

Level of evidence: Level I, randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma / metabolism*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / therapy*
  • Tendinopathy / physiopathology*
  • Tendinopathy / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones