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Long-term follow-up of arthroscopic treatment of lateral epicondylitis.

BACKGROUND: In a previously published report of the authors' arthroscopic technique of operative management of recalcitrant lateral epicondylitis, they demonstrated short-term success with the procedure in their patients.

HYPOTHESIS: Arthroscopic management of patients with lateral epicondylitis can produce clinical improvement and have successful long-term outcomes.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

METHODS: Forty patients (42 elbows) with lateral epicondylitis who had not responded to nonoperative management were treated with arthroscopic resection of pathologic tissue. Thirty of these patients (30 elbows) were located for extended follow-up. At a mean follow-up of 130 months (range, 106-173 months), patients were asked to use a numeric scale to rate their elbow pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain). Patients were also asked to rate their elbows according to the functional portion of the Mayo Clinic Elbow Performance Index.

RESULTS: The mean pain score at rest was 0; with activities of daily living, 1.0; and with work or sports, 1.9. The mean functional score was 11.7 out of a possible 12 points. No patient required further surgery or repeat injections after surgery. One patient continued to wear a counterforce brace with heavy activities. Twenty-three patients (77%) stated they were "much better," 6 patients (20%) stated they were "better," and 1 patient (3%) stated he was the same. Twenty-six patients (87%) were satisfied, and 28 patients (93%) stated they would have the surgery again if needed.

CONCLUSION: Arthroscopic removal of pathologic tendinosis tissue is a reliable treatment for recalcitrant lateral epicondylitis. The early high rate of success in patients was maintained at long-term follow-up.

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