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Interventional radiology treatment of ‘tennis elbow’

Tennis elbow, the painful chronic condition that can affect up to 3 percent of the active adult population, can be effectively treated through transcatheter arterial embolization (TAE), the image-guided, non-surgical treatment that decreases abnormal blood flow to the injured area to reduce inflammation and pain, according to research presented at the recent Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting ( The condition, also known as lateral epicondylitis, stems from repetitive stress injuries that occur in activities such as sports, typing and knitting, and the injury can impact basic tasks that affect job performance and the quality of life.

Tennis elbow can be difficult to treat, leaving many patients unable to perform the simplest tasks, such as picking up their children, cooking dinner, or even working on a computer. With this frustration, many patients turn to invasive major surgery after years of failed physical therapy and medication use,” said Dr Y Okuno, lead author of the study. “We were interested to see if TAE, already in use in other areas of the body, would be effective for this common, debilitating condition and help people immediately regain a range of motion that many of us take for granted in our everyday tasks.”

Dr. Okuno’s team conducted a prospective study in 52 patients with tennis elbow who had not found  relief from other forms of treatment. The patients received TAE and were followed for up to four years after the treatment. The researchers found statistically significant reductions in several well-established  pain-rating scores, Additionally, images taken in 32 patients two years after undergoing TAE showed an improvement in tendinosis and tear scores.

The TAE treatment can be completed in approximately one hour and requires only a needle insertion under local anesthesia to access the radial artery in the wrist. A catheter is moved through the wrist to the elbow where the inflamed blood vessels are embolized, preventing excessive blood flow to the affected part of the elbow. The treatment is safe and effective and doesn’t require physical therapy, researchers said. No adverse events were observed and no patients experienced negative effects to the surrounding bones,