The pain and inflammation of tennis elbow, a repetitive stress injury, can be effectively treated with transcatheter arterial embolization, according to new research presented recently at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting.

TAE is an image-guided, nonsurgical treatment that decreases abnormal blood flow to the injured area to reduce inflammation and pain from this hard-to-treat injury. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, stems from repetitive stress injuries that occur in activities such as sports, typing, and knitting. It is common in carpenters, cooks, and assembly line workers, impacting basic tasks that affect job performance and quality of life. If left unchecked, it can often lead to major surgery, according to the researchers, in a media release from Society of Interventional Radiology.

“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,” says Yuji Okuno, MD, PhD, 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.”

In the study, titled “Midterm clinical outcomes after transcatheter arterial embolization for lateral epicondylitis resistance to conservative treatment,” Okuno’s team conducted a prospective study in 52 patients with tennis elbow who did not find relief from other forms of treatment. The patients received TAE between March 2013 and October 2017 and were followed for up to 4 years after the treatment.

Statistically significant reductions in pain-rating scores were found, using methods including the Quick Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand scores; visual analog scale pain rating scores; Patient-rated Tennis Elbow Evaluation scores; and pain-free grip strength. Additionally, images taken in 32 patients 2 years after undergoing TAE showed an improvement in tendinosis and tear scores, the release explains.

The treatment can be completed in approximately 1 hour and requires only a needle hole to access the radial artery in the wrist under local anesthesia. A catheter is moved through the wrist to the elbow where the inflamed blood vessels are embolized, preventing excessive blood flow to the affected part of the elbow. No adverse events were observed, and no patients experienced negative effects to the surrounding bones, cartilage or muscles, the researchers suggest.

[Source: Society of Interventional Radiology]