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Radiofrequency microtenotomy: a promising method for treatment of recalcitrant lateral epicondylitis.

BACKGROUND: Recalcitrant lateral epicondylitis (elbow tendinosis) is a common cause of elbow pain. There are many forms of treatment, none being superior.

HYPOTHESIS: The main hypothesis tested in this study is that radiofrequency microtenotomy offers better results than the extensor tendon release and repair operation for elbow tendinosis, especially earlier recovery.

STUDY DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.

METHODS: Twenty-four patients were randomized into 2 treatment groups, extensor tendon release and repair, and microtenotomy. Dynamic infrared thermography (DIRT) was employed as an objective method to verify the diagnosis as well as to document the outcome 3 months after the surgical procedure.

RESULTS: Visual analog scale pain scores in the microtenotomy but not in the release group decreased significantly after 3 weeks. There was no statistically significant difference in pain scores between the 2 groups at 3, 6, and 12 weeks, and at 10 to 18 months. At 12 weeks, grip strength had improved significantly in the microtenotomy but not in the release group. The functional score was significantly increased in both groups. The DIRT group showed significant differences in epicondyle skin temperature between diseased and normal elbows both pre- and postoperatively. Abnormal DIRT images correlated well with elevated pain scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Radiofrequency microtenotomy provides a promising alternative to the release operation for elbow tendinosis. Dynamic infrared thermography provides a reliable, noninvasive, objective method for the diagnosis of elbow tendinosis, as well as for evaluation of the outcome following treatment.

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