Plasma jab lessens pain in tennis elbow

A single injection of a concentrated solution of blood platelets could one day replace surgery in the treatment of severe tennis elbow, claim US researchers.

They found that injecting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into the elbow of patients with severe elbow tendinitis reduced pain and improved mobility.  

Blood platelets contain a high concentration of growth factors. By injecting a strong solution of platelets into a damaged tendon the researchers hoped to stimulate growth and speed up the healing process.  

The pilot study of this experimental treatment included 20 patients who had suffered significant and persistent elbow epicondylar pain for an average of 15 months.  

They had not responded to previous treatments including physiotherapy and corticosteroid injections. They all scored at least 60 out of 100 on a visual analog pain scale and were considering surgery.  

The researchers allocated 15 of these patients for treatment with a single PRP injection derived from a sample of the patient’s own blood and injected into the affected elbow.  

The remaining five patients were given an injection of bupivacaine into the affected elbow.  

After eight weeks, the PRP patients reported a 60 per cent improvement in pain, compared to a 16 per cent improvement in the control group.  

After six months, the PRP patients reported an 81 per cent improvement in pain, while three of the five controls continued to experience significant pain and had sought other treatment.  

Lead researcher Dr Allan Mishra, from the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center in California said: ‘The results of our pilot study indicate this therapy is as effective as surgery, with sustained and significant improvement over time, no side effects and high patient acceptance.’ 

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