Background: Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is one of the most common lower leg injuries in sporting populations. It accounts for between 6 and 16% of all running injuries, and up to 53% of lower leg injuries in military recruits. Various treatment modalities are available with varying degrees of success. In recalcitrant cases, surgery is often the only option.
Objective: To evaluate whether ultrasound-guided injection of 15% dextrose for treatment of recalcitrant MTSS decreases pain and facilitates a return to desired activity levels for those who may otherwise be considering surgery or giving up the sport.
Method: The study design was a prospective consecutive case series involving eighteen patients: fifteen male and three female; (mean age = 31.2 years) with recalcitrant MTSS. They were referred from sports injury clinics across the UK, having failed all available conservative treatment.
Intervention: An ultrasound-guided sub-periosteal injection of 15% dextrose was administered by the same clinician (NP) along the length of the symptomatic area. Typically, 1 mL of solution was injected per cm of the symptomatic area.
Main outcome measures: Pain was assessed using a 10-cm visual analog scale (VAS) at baseline, short-term, medium-term (mean 18 weeks), and long-term (mean 52 weeks) follow-up. Symptom resolution and return to activity were measured using a Likert scale at medium and long-term follow-up. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS for Mac version 19.0.0 (IBM, New York, NY, US). The Shapiro-Wilk test was used to evaluate the normality of the distribution of data. Friedman's non-parametric test was used to compare the within-patient treatment response over time. Post-hoc Wilcoxon signed-rank tests with Bonferroni corrections were performed to determine VAS average pain response to treatment over five paired periods.
Results: Patients reported a significant (p < 0.01) reduction in median VAS pain score at medium and long-term follow-up compared to baseline. Median improvement per patient was 4.5/10. Patients rated their condition as 'much improved' at medium-term follow-up and the median return to sports score was 'returned to desired but not pre-injury level' at medium-term and long-term follow-up. No adverse events were reported.
Conclusions: Ultrasound-guided 15% dextrose prolotherapy injection has a significant medium-term effect on pain in MTSS. This benefit may be maintained long-term; however, more robust trials are required to validate these findings in the absence of controls.
Clinical relevance: Clinicians should consider the use of ultrasound-guided injection of 15% dextrose as a viable treatment option to reduce pain and aid return to activity for patients with recalcitrant MTSS.
Keywords: Dextrose; Exercise-induced leg pain; Injection; MTSS; Prolotherapy.