BACKGROUND: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), as a promising alternative to traditional corticosteroid (CS), is now increasingly used in the treatment of elbow epicondylitis (EE) and plantar fasciitis (PF). To date, however, the synthesis of information on the clinical efficacy of PRP versus CS is limited with divergent conclusions.
PURPOSE: To compare the clinical efficacy of PRP and CS injections in reducing pain and improving function in EE and PF.
STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
METHODS: Online databases were searched from inception to October 2018 for prospective studies evaluating PRP versus CS injections for EE or PF. Independent reviewers undertook searches, screening, and risk-of-bias appraisals. The primary outcomes of interest were pain and function in both the short term (1-3 months) and the long term (=6 months).
RESULTS: Twenty trials with 1268 participants were included. For EE, PRP provides a statistically and clinically meaningful long-term improvement in pain, with a very large effect size of -1.3 (95% CI, -1.9 to -0.7) when compared with CS, but the evidence level was low. For EE, there was moderate evidence that CS provides a statistically meaningful improvement in pain in the short term, with a medium effect size of 0.56 (95% CI, 0.08-1.03) as compared with PRP; this improvement might not be clinically significant. For PF, there was low evidence that PRP provides a statistically and clinically meaningful long-term improvement in function (American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society score), with a very large effect size of 1.94 (95% CI, 0.61-3.28). There were no significant differences between the groups in improvement in function in EE and pain and short-term function in PF, but the quality of the evidence was low.
CONCLUSION: The use of PRP yields statistically and clinically better improvement in long-term pain than does CS in the treatment of EE. The use of PRP yields statistically and clinically better long-term functional improvement than that of CS in the treatment of PF.
Rigorous meta-analysis; findings of long-term benefit for PRP appears novel but heterogeneity is extremely high, sample sizes small, most studies conducted by same few groups of investigators. The clinical value of the results is uncertain.