Effect of platelet-rich plasma injection vs sham injection on tendon dysfunction in patients with chronic midportion achilles tendinopathy: a randomized clinical trial

Rebecca Kearney, Chen Ji, Jane Warwick, Nicholas Parsons, Jaclyn Brown, Paul Harrison, Jonathan Young, Mathew Costa

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Importance: Platelet-rich plasma injections are used as a treatment for chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy, but evidence for this treatment is limited.

Objective: In adults with midportion Achilles tendinopathy, to assess the effects of a single platelet-rich plasma injection, compared with sham injection, on the outcome of the Victorian institute of Sport Assessment-Achilles (VISA-A) score (a single composite measure of Achilles tendinopathy severity).

Design, Setting, and Participants: A participant-blinded, multicenter randomized clinical trial that included 240 people from 24 sites assigned to either a platelet-rich plasma injection or a sham injection between April 2016 and February 2020. Final follow-up was July 2020. Participants were older than 18 years with midportion Achilles tendon pain for more than 3 months as confirmed by ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, or both.

Interventions: A single intratendinous platelet-rich plasma injection (n = 121) or a single sham injection (insertion of a subcutaneous dry needle not entering the tendon) (n = 119).

Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomewas the VISA-A score, measured 6 months after treatment allocation. The VISA-A score contains 8 questions that cover 3 domains of pain, function, and activity, analyzed as a composite score (range, 0 [worst symptoms] to 100 [no symptoms]; minimal clinically important difference in score, 12 points). The primary analysis was adjusted for laterality, age, sex, and baseline VISA-A score.

Results: Among 240 patients assigned to a platelet-rich plasma or sham injection (mean age, 52 years; 138 [58%] women), 221 (92%) completed the trial. At 6-month follow-up, mean VISA-A score values in the plasma-rich plasma group vs the sham injection group were 54.4 vs 53.4 (adjusted mean difference, −2.7 [95%CI, −8.8 to 3.3]). The most common adverse events compared between patients in the platelet-rich plasma group vs the sham group were injection site discomfort (97 vs 73 patients), swelling (56 vs 52 patients) and bruising (48 vs 49 patients).

Conclusions and Relevance: Among patients with chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy, treatment with a single injection of intratendinous platelet-rich plasma, compared with insertion of a subcutaneous dry needle, did not reduce Achilles tendon dysfunction at 6 months. These findings do not support the use of this treatment for chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy.

Trial Registration: isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN13254422
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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