By: Dr. Tanuj Palvia, MD.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a degenerative condition involving overuse of the forearm muscles. In severe cases of tennis elbow, even opening a door or shaking someone’s hand can become very painful. During the past several years, much has been published about platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and its application in tennis elbow treatment.
What Is Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP)?
Whole blood, as obtained in a standard blood draw, contains many components including red and white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets clot blood, but also contain high concentrations of growth factors and proteins which accelerate the body’s tissue repair process. Unfortunately, degenerative tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments do not heal correctly due to a lack of blood flow. Therefore, a physician can introduce a platelet-rich plasma preparation to these damaged tissues under ultrasound guidance to facilitate the reparative process.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood must first be drawn from a patient. The platelets are separated from other blood cells, and in our laboratory, their concentration is increased during a process called centrifugation. The platelets and their healing growth factors are then injected at the affected site. Studies have shown that the increased concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process.
How are we using PRP for treating Tennis Elbow?
PRP has been shown to be useful in the treatment of tennis elbow. Recently, a large study on PRP for tennis elbow was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. They found success rates for patients with 24 weeks of follow-up were 83.9% in the PRP group compared with 68.3% in the control group. No significant complications occurred in either group. Given the current state of research, we will primarily be offering PRP in the treatment of tennis elbow.
A typical treatment regimen for tennis elbow would begin with some combination of rest, activity modification, a tennis elbow strap, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and possibly cortisone treatment. For patients who are still symptomatic, or wish to seek further results, PRP may be an excellent option. Other conditions we can treat with PRP include plantar fasciitis, MCL sprains, Achilles tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, and other chronic tendinopathies.
The procedure is very safe, as the body is using its own platelets to heal. There are normally no side effects besides the inflammatory healing process for a few days. Patients should note that many insurance companies consider PRP to be an experimental or investigatory treatment and do not cover PRP therapy.
Wondering if you could be a PRP candidate? Please feel free to reach out to us by filling out the form below, or simply call us now.