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Double fault for surgery in tennis elbow

Double fault for surgery in tennis elbow - Featured Image

Surgery does no better than placebo in improving difficult-to-treat symptoms of tennis elbow, Australian researchers have found.

Their study, the first of its kind, compared one of the most common types of surgery for tennis elbow – removal of the damaged portion of the extensor capri radialis brevis (ECRB) – with a sham operation which involved an excision only.

The 26 patients who were randomised to real or sham surgery had all suffered symptoms for over six months and had also failed at least two non-surgical treatments, such as physio, massage, acupuncture or splinting/bracing.

Both groups of patients reported less pain, with less frequency, six months after the intervention.

Elbow stiffness, difficulty picking up objects and twisting motions were all equally improved across the two groups.

Related: spare the steroids in tennis elbow

The consistency of improvements across both groups held over up to four years of follow-up, says lead author Dr Martin Kroslak, a surgeon and researcher at Sydney’s Orthopaedic Research Institute.

“Managing chronic tennis elbow is a challenge for a large portion of the active population,” says Dr Kroslak.

“Our research demonstrates the challenges in outlining a treatment plan for these patients, and the continued work to be done in developing bot surgical and non-operative approaches.”

Dr Koslak presented his study this week at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in San Diego, US. You can access the abstract here.

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