A recent study published in the European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (Aug 20, 2016) compared cortisone injections to Platelet Rich Plasma injections for patients with a painful partial rotator cuff tear. This was a prospective, randomized controlled study that enrolled 40 patients with a symptomatic (painful) rotator cuff tear. Patients were evaluated prior the injection and at specific time intervals (6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months) following the injection. Standardized outcome measures including the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Standardized Shoulder Assessment Form (ASES), the Constant-Murley Score (CMS), Simple Shoulder Test (SST) and Visual Analog Scale (VAS) were utilized.
The results of the study showed that both the cortisone injection group and PRP group both received significant clinical improvement following an injection. The PRP group had superior results that were statistically significant at 12 weeks with all outcome measures. At 6 months after the injection, there was no statistical difference between the groups.
The authors of this study concluded that subacromial PRP injection should be considered a good alternative to cortisone injections especially in light of the potential complications associated with corticosteroids.
The results of this study mirror findings from a previous investigation of 50 patients by von Wehren et al (Knee Surg Sports Trauma Arthro May 2015). The theory behind the results, relates to some evidence that the platelets may help provide revascularization to the injured rotator cuff tendon.
More evidence is needed to fully support the use of PRP for the indication of a symptomatic partial rotator cuff tear. The current evidence does suggest a viable alternative to corticosteroid injections for short term relief with a lower risk of complications.