A recently published study by Dr. Taco Gosens from the Netherlands, revealed platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections were more effective than cortisone injections for chronic tennis elbow. The controlled trial studied 100 patients with chronic lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). The results are reported in this month's (Feb.) Academy Journal of Sports Medicine.
Patients were randomly selected into either the PRP group or corticosteroid group. Successful treatment was defined as "more than 25% reduction in visual analog score or DASH score without a re-intervention after 1 year."
At one-year follow-up, 73% of patients in the platelet-rich plasma group were treated successfully compared with just 51% of the cortisone group. What was further significant: the corticosteroid group was initially better and then declined, whereas the PRP group improved steadily.
In conclusion, the study reported treatment of chronic lateral epicondylitis with PRP reduces pain and significantly increases function. PRP significantly exceeds the effect of corticosteroid injection for the same injury.
Currently, PRP remains a therapy for patients who have failed other non-surgical treatments. As cortisone injections are temporary pain relievers and can cause tissue damage, they have also been a final resort when other non-surgical therapies fail.
Based on this study, PRP could eventually be used as a substitute for cortisone injections. PRP is shown to be more effective and has the advantage of using patients' own natural components to heal soft-tissue tears. Cortisone as an outside agent introduced to the body, is designed to temporarily relieve pain, but can be further damaging to an injury. As evidence supporting PRP effectiveness continues to be published and insurance companies come to understand PRP's value, the substitution is likely.