Arthroscopic Debridement for Refractory Lateral Epicondylitis Results for Substantial Improvement in Tendinosis Scores and Good Clinical Outcomes: Qualitative and Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging Analysis


      To qualify and quantify the changes in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) signals in the extensor tendons after arthroscopic debridement for lateral epicondylitis and evaluate the association between MRI findings and temporal clinical results by comparisons between recovered and unrecovered cases.


      Thirty-four patients with refractory lateral epicondylitis treated with arthroscopic debridement were divided into recovered (n = 24) and unrecovered (n = 10) groups according to the Japanese Orthopaedic Association-Japan Elbow Society score. This study included any patients who underwent both the pre- and postoperative MRI and excluded patients with a previous history of any elbow surgery. Pre- and postoperative MRI findings were qualitatively categorized into 4 grades, quantified by measuring the percentage of tendinopathy area, and compared between the groups.


      Preoperatively, grading scores and percentages did not show significant differences between groups (P = .050 and .519). The respective numbers of patients with grades 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 1 (4%), 3 (13%), 10 (42%), and 10 (42%) in the recovered group; and 1 (10%), 2 (20%), 7 (70%), and 0 (0%) in the unrecovered group. The average percentages in the recovered and unrecovered groups were 42.3% (73.9 mm2/168.4 mm2); and 36.5% (50.5 mm2/131.0 mm2). However, postoperatively, they were significantly lower in the recovered group than in the unrecovered group (P = .007 and .014). The numbers and percentages in the recovered and unrecovered groups were 15 (63%), 8 (33%), 1 (4%), and 0 (0%) and 17.0% (28.6mm2/169.8mm2) and 2 (20%), 3 (30%), 5 (50%), and 0 (0%) and 30.5% (39.0 mm2/131.8 mm2).


      Qualitative and quantitative MRI is useful for evaluating the progress of tendon healing after arthroscopic debridement. In the recovered and unrecovered groups, improvement of tendinopathy area were 60% versus 16%, indicating that postoperative MRI findings reflect clinical outcomes.

      Level of Evidence

      IV, case series with subgroup analysis.
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