Effect of Ultrasonography-Guided Corticosteroid Injection vs Placebo Added to Exercise Therapy for Achilles Tendinopathy: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Finn Johannsen*, Jens Lykkegaard Olesen, Tommy Frisgaard Øhlenschläger, Mathilde Lundgaard-Nielsen, Camilla Kjaer Cullum, Anna Svarre Jakobsen, Michael Skovdal Rathleff, Peter Stig Magnusson, Michael Kjær

*Corresponding author for this work


Importance: Corticosteroid injections and exercise therapy are commonly used to treat chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy, but the evidence for this combination is limited.

Objective: To investigate the effect of corticosteroid injection and exercise therapy compared with placebo injection and exercise therapy for patients with Achilles tendinopathy.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a participant-blinded, physician-blinded, and assessor-blinded randomized clinical trial of patients with Achilles tendinopathy verified by ultrasonography. Assessment of pain and function were conducted at baseline and at 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months. Patients were recruited from a university medical clinic and a private rheumatology clinic in Denmark between April 2016 and September 2018. Data analysis was performed from June to September 2021.

Interventions: Corticosteroid injection and placebo injection were performed with ultrasonography guidance. Exercise therapy was based on previous trials and consisted of 3 exercises done every second day.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was the Victorian Institute of Sports Assessment-Achilles (VISA-A) score (range, 1-100, with 100 representing no symptoms) at 6 months. Secondary outcomes included pain measured using a 100-mm Visual Analog Scale for morning pain and pain during exercise (with higher scores indicating worse pain), global assessment (Likert scale), and tendon thickness.

Results: A total of 100 patients were included, with 52 randomized to placebo (mean age, 46 years [95% CI, 44-48 years]; 32 men [62%]) and 48 randomized to corticosteroid injection (mean age, 47 years [95% CI, 45-49 years]; 28 men [58%]). Patients in the 2 groups had similar height (mean [SD], 177 [8] cm), weight (mean [SD], 79 [12] kg), and VISA-A score (mean [SD], 46 [18]) at baseline. The group receiving exercise therapy combined with corticosteroid injections had a 17.7-point (95% CI, 8.4-27.0 points; P < .001) larger improvement in VISA-A score compared with patients receiving exercise therapy combined with placebo injections at 6 months. No severe adverse events were observed in either group, and there was no deterioration in the long term (2-year follow-up).

Conclusions and Relevance: Corticosteroid injections combined with exercise therapy were associated with better outcomes in the treatment of Achilles tendinopathy compared with placebo injections and exercise therapy. A combination of exercise therapy and corticosteroid injection should be considered in the management of long-standing Achilles tendinopathy.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02580630.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)e2219661
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of Ultrasonography-Guided Corticosteroid Injection vs Placebo Added to Exercise Therapy for Achilles Tendinopathy: A Randomized Clinical Trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this