by Raymond K. Wurapa, M.D.

Elbow tendonitis may present as either medial epicondylitis (tennis elbow) or lateral epicondylitis (golfer's elbow). The use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in the office setting for treatment of this condition is becoming more commonplace. PRP contains a rich concentration of growth factors and cell mediators which are thought to stimulate the healing process.

Fueled by patient demand for an effective alternative to surgery in managing chronic elbow tendonitis, the growing body of scientific research is encouraging. The procedure is reserved for patients with chronic elbow tendonitis who do not get better with routine management (rest, activity modifications, oral anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and therapy programs.)

During the procedure a small volume of venous blood is drawn from a patient and processed with a special technique to extract the PRP component of the blood. The PRP is then injected into the same patient's affected elbow under sterile technique. Since it is the patient's own blood produced and used immediately at the point of care, it is a very safe treatment. The process takes about twenty to thirty minutes total. The healing process can take a few days to several months.

Results to date are very promising, and PRP may emerge as a more effective and less expensive option compared to surgery for chronic elbow tendinopathy. At present insurance companies are still selectively reimbursing for this procedure, therefore it may be a direct cost to the patient.