Dear Santa: Fix My Elbow

In a few days, a sample of my blood will be drawn, placed in a filtration system and shaken so mightily that it will separate into parts. One particular type will be injected back into my body, near my right elbow. That arm will be placed in a sling and remain nearly motionless for two days.

Apparently, Santa has me on the naughty list this year.

But seriously, if all goes as planned, the procedure just described, and the outcome from it, may be the best holiday gift I receive this season.

You see, I have a bad elbow. More specifically, I have medial epicondylitis, commonly referred to as “golfer’s elbow.” After rounds of physical therapy, cortisone shots and steroidal and anti-inflammatory medicines (and perhaps not following all doctors’ advice to a tee), my elbow is not healed. It remains sore to the touch, and certain exercises are too painful to perform, reverse curls, for example.

I’m not a golfer, so I don’t know how the trauma occurred. I think it happened while in the gym. But daily use of a computer mouse for 20-plus years probably hasn’t helped.

My ongoing pain  and desire to be whole again  led me recently to ProMedica Physicians’ Roger Kruse, MD, and his use of regenerative treatments for my type of injury using blood platelets. After an ultrasound and MRI, the internal damage not only could be clearly seen, but was determined a worthy candidate for this treatment option. It will be up to Dr. Kruse and his team to pull off this holiday miracle.

Platelet rich plasma treatments have been used to rehabilitate a range of injuries. Athletes are among its most publicized success stories. Athletes exert continuous and far more strenuous pressure on tendons and muscles than regular folks. Often, the result is an injury that can’t heal, and living with chronic pain that remains unresponsive to conventional treatments.

The key to healing is our platelets. They are cells that contain growth factors, which are crucial for healing. These compounds control and regulate natural healing processes in response to injury or degenerative changes. The principle is this: By concentrating these specialized growth factors (the extracting, filtering and separation process) and injecting them at the site of an injury, a robust healing response can be achieved.

Dr. Kruse uses a variation on this technique: Regenexx-SCP, or Super Concentrated Platelets. Regenexx-SCP is created in a lab, rather than a standard beside centrifuge, which produces platelets at up to five times normal concentration in the body. With Regenexx-SCP, platelet concentrations as high as 40 times normal levels can be achieved.

That’s why this particular approach is so attractive to athletes. Healing gets jump-started, and recovery time is reduced significantly, all without surgery.

The use of platelet rich plasma treatments  whether Regenexx-SCP or some another technique  is not a cure-all or guarantee of success. It may be that surgery is required, whereby sections of my damaged tendon are removed. But after surgery, recovery takes weeks and mobility is severely limited initially.

That’s why this new technique is attractive to me, and why I’m hoping it can accomplish what others have not: An arm free of pain and with full strength.

Santa, are you reading this?


Kevin Merrill is a member of ProMedica’s Marketing Communications team, where his primary focus is the organization’s new electronic health record project. He and his elbows have called Northwest Ohio home for 15 years.