Health Team

New tendonitis treatment removes source of pain

Posted December 22, 2014

A tendon is the flexible connection of muscle to bone, and, for some, the source of occasional pain. 

Common ailments like tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis and some knee and shoulder pain can be eased with pain medications and rest.

When those conservative treatments don't work, and tendonitis lasts for months, a new outpatient procedure may help.

Margie Reese, 61, had pain so bad she couldn't keep up with her daily tasks. 

"I couldn't work in the yard, you know, trimming the bushes. I couldn't lift a pitcher of tea. I couldn't lift my grandbaby," she said.

All tendonitis stems from a single physical cause: a build-up of dead tissue under the healthy tendon.

"Bad tissue is really just pain-generating tissue," said UNC orthopaedic surgeon Dr. David Berkoff. He is among the few in the state offering a new, FDA-approved outpatient procedure developed by a company called Tenex.

In his clinic office, Berkoff uses ultrasound to guide a special tool to the problem area. The incision is so small it doesn't even require a stitch.

Berkoff puts the tip of the tool against the dead tissue. 

"That tip vibrates at 20,000 rpm, and you put this vibrating tip in there and it emulsifies it," he said.

The debris is sucked out, leaving patients with less pain.

"He just gave me the local anesthesia in my arm," Reese said. "I watched him on the screen, and I was wide awake."

After about a week, she was able to get back to normal activity.

"I knew that it was getting much better," she said. Now she can do all the things she enjoys without elbow pain.


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