Introduction: Lateral epicondylitis is a common musculoskeletal disorder of the upper limb. Corticosteroid injection has been widely used as a major mode of treatment. However, better understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease led to a major change in treating the disease, with new options including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) are currently used.
Objectives/research aim: To systematically evaluate the effect of corticosteroid versus PRP injections for the treatment of LE.
Hypothesis: PRP injections provide longer-term therapeutic effect and less rate of complications compared to corticosteroid injection.
Level of evidence: Level 2 evidence (4 included studies are of level 1 evidence, 1 study of level 2 evidence).
Design: Systematic Review (according to PRISMA guidelines).
Methods: Eleven databases used to search for relevant primary studies comparing the effects of corticosteroid and PRP injections for the treatment of LE. Quality appraisal of studies performed using Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0, CASP Randomised Controlled Trial Checklist, and SIGN Methodology Checklist 2.
Results: 732 papers were identified. Five randomised controlled trials (250 Patients) met the inclusion criteria. Clinical findings: Corticosteroid injections provided rapid symptomatic improvement with maximum effect at 6/8/8 weeks before symptoms recurrence, whereas PRP showed slower ongoing improvements up to 24/52/104 weeks(3 studies). Corticosteroid showed more rapid symptomatic improvement of symptoms compared to PRP up to the study end-point of 3 months(1 study). Comparable therapeutic effects of corticosteroid and PRP were observed at 6 weeks(1 study). Ultrasonographic Findings: (1) Doppler activity decreased more significantly in patients who received corticosteroid compared to PRP. (2) Reduced tendon thickness and more patients with cortical erosion noted in corticosteroid group whereas increased tendon thickness and less number of patients with common extensor tendon tears noted in PRP group. (3) Fewer patients reported Probe-induced tenderness and oedema in the common extensor tendon in both corticosteroid and PRP groups (2 studies).
Conclusion: Corticosteroid injections provide rapid therapeutic effect in the short-term with recurrence of symptoms afterwards, compared to the relatively slower but longer-term effect of platelet-rich plasma.