Background: Chronic Achilles tendinopathy is responsible for a severe reduction in physical performance and persistent pain. There is currently a number of therapeutic options and the local administration of growth factors is an emerging treatment strategy. In particular, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a widely used way to provide a local regenerative stimulus for tendon healing. The aim of this study was to document the mid-term results obtained after treating recalcitrant Achilles tendinopathy with injections of high concentrate, leucocyte-rich PRP.
Materials and methods: Twenty-seven patients (mean age: 44.6 years; 22 men and 5 women) affected by chronic mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy (7 bilateral, for a total of 34 tendons), refractory to previous treatments, were enrolled. Patients were treated with three ultrasound-guided intra-tendinous injections of PRP at 2-week intervals. Patients were prospectively evaluated at baseline, and then at 2, 6, and up to a mean of 54.1 months of follow-up (minimum 30 months), using the following tools: Blanzina, VISA-A, EQ-VAS for general health, and Tegner scores.
Results: The VISA-A score showed a significant improvement: the baseline score of 49.9±18.1 increased to 62.9±19.8 at 2 months (p=0.002), with a further improvement at 6 months (84.3±17.1, p<0.0005), and stable results at 4.5 years (90.0±13.9). The EQ-VAS score also showed a similar positive trend. An evaluation of the activity level confirmed these findings, showing a significant improvement in the Tegner score over time (p=0.017 for the final evaluation). The longer duration of symptoms before treatment was associated with a slower return to sport (p=0.041).
Discussion: PRP injections produced good overall results for the treatment of chronic recalcitrant Achilles tendinopathy with a stable outcome up to a medium-term follow-up. Longer symptom duration was related with a more difficult return to sporting activity.