New IR treatment helps patients suffering from ‘tennis elbow’ without surgery

A new noninvasive treatment can be used to treat the chronic condition commonly known as “tennis elbow,” according to research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting in Austin, Texas. 

Tennis elbow impacts up to 3 percent of adults in the United States. The research team found that transcatheter arterial embolization (TAE) provides specialists with an image-guided option that can provide comfort to patients without requiring surgery. It takes approximately one hour and involves a catheter moving through the wrist and to the elbow, decreasing blood flow and minimizing inflammation.  

“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,” lead author Yuji Okuno, MD, PhD, founder of Japan’s Okuno Clinic, said in a statement. “With this frustration, many patients turn to invasive major surgery after years of failed physical therapy and medication use. 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.”

Researchers studied data from 52 patients suffering from tennis elbow who did not respond to other treatments. They all received TAE from March 2013 to October 2017, with follow-up of up to four years following the procedure. The team noted “statistically significant reductions” in pain for those patients, using numerous metrics. In 32 of those patients, follow-up imaging two years after TAE revealed “an improvement in tendinosis and tear scores.”

“The treatment is safe and effective and doesn’t require physical therapy,” according to the statement. “No adverse events were observed and no patients experienced negative effects to the surrounding bones, cartilage or muscles.”