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New treatment option for tennis elbow

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A new study offers hope for patients with persistent tennis elbow when traditional treatments have not worked.

Researchers in Tokyo found that transcatheter arterial embolisation (TAE), an image-guided, non-surgical treatment that decreases abnormal blood flow to the injured area to reduce inflammation and pain, can provide effective relief in patients who fail to improve with conservative treatments.

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It is usually caused by overusing the muscles and tendons of the forearm, causing small tears and inflammation near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of the elbow.

As the name suggests, tennis elbow is sometimes caused by playing tennis. However, it can also be caused by other activities that place repeated stress on the elbow joint, such as carpentry, assembly-line work or decorating.

“Tennis elbow can be difficult to treat, leaving many patients unable to perform the simplest tasks, such as picking up their children, cooking dinner, or even working on a computer. With this frustration, many patients turn to invasive major surgery after years of failed physical therapy and medication use,” explained Dr Yuji Okuno, founder of the Okuno Clinic in Japan and lead author of the study.

“We were interested to see if this technique, already in use in other areas of the body, would be effective for this common, debilitating condition and help people immediately regain a range of motion that many of us take for granted in our everyday tasks.”

Dr Okuno’s team conducted a prospective study in 52 patients with tennis elbow who did not find relief from other forms of treatment, the Society of Interventional Radiology reports. The patients received TAE between March 2013 and October 2017 and were followed for up to four years after the treatment.

Results showed statistically significant reductions in a variety of pain-rating scores. Additionally, images taken in 32 patients two years after undergoing TAE showed an improvement in tendinosis and tear scores.

No adverse events were observed and no patients experienced negative effects to the surrounding bones, cartilage or muscles, the researchers said.

The findings were presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting.