In 2006, Dr. Allan Mishra of Stanford University pioneered the first study evaluating the use of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) to treat refractory lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). PRP involves removing a small amount of patients’ blood, concentrating the blood’s naturally occurring healing components called platelets, and re-injecting the platelets into an injury, catalyzing the body’s natural healing response (learn more here).
The Level IV study (evidence based), conducted by Dr. Mishra along with colleague, Dr. Pavelko, reported a 79 percent success rate. Mishra and Pavelko treated 15 patients with PRP injections and 5 patients with placebo injections. The patients were then prospectively evaluated. The PRP group reported 60 percent improvement at eight weeks, 81 percent improvement at six months, and 93 percent at final follow-up, one year. This continual improvement raises the notion that while PRP has been used by many athletes to expedite recovery in the short-term, PRP may also stimulate the body’s healing process for a much greater period of time, as other studies also suggest. This also makes PRP a significantly more effective choice for certain patients who would otherwise receive cortisone injections (see Cortisone vs. PRP for Tennis Elbow).
The study’s downside was the minimal control group. 3 of the 5 patients in the control group dropped out of the study. The study was then only able to evaluate the PRP group. While the sample size was small and the attrition rate was high in the control group, the study remains encouraging and significantly more information about PRP has emerged as a result.
Reference: Mishra A, Pavelko T. Treatment of chronic elbow tendinosis with buffered platelet-rich plasma. Am J Sports Med. 2006. 34: 1774-1778.