Researchers in London have found a new way to treat hamstring injuries and that is none other than the patient's own blood.

Researchers have discovered an effective two-part treatment for microtears in the hamstring: injections of the patient's own blood and a steroid along with dry-needling, in which repeated needle punctures cause controlled internal bleeding in the injured area.

By injecting the patient's own blood where it is needed at the site of a damaged tendon, we help the patient heal themselves, said lead researcher Waseem Bashir, a radiologist at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Ealing Hospital in London. Blood contains many growth factors, and the injections have been shown to promote faster healing of certain injuries.

Hamstring tendinopathy is a common sports injury and patients having hamstring injuries will experience pain walking or climbing stairs and even while sitting or riding in a car.

In the study, one group received an injection of both a long-lasting anesthetic and steroid on the surface of the tendon, as well as the dry-needling procedure at the site of microtears.

The second group received an injection of the anesthetic along with two to three milliliters of their own blood, called an autologous blood injection (ABI), and dry-needling. The third group received a local anesthetic, a steroid and ABI along with dry-needling.

Following their treatments, all patients in the study participated in a structured six-week physiotherapy program and were evaluated at various intervals over a one-year period.

The findings show that patients who were treated solely with an injection of a steroid and dry-needling reported improved functionality for only three to 12 weeks after treatment, while patients who received their own blood plus dry-needling reported significant improvements in functionality even one year after the treatment.

Also, the patients who received both their own blood and a steroid along with dry-needling at the site of tendon damage experienced the most significant reduction in pain levels and the most sustained functional improvement one year following treatment.

Ultrasound-guided ABI in the hamstring, in combination with a local steroid and dry-needling, appears to be a more clinically effective alternative to the current standard, steroid therapy, Dr. Bashir said. A few of our soccer-playing patients had been told their condition was untreatable and they had basically given up all hope of playing again. They were amazed to be able to play again after our treatment and physical therapy.

He added that ABI therapy has also been an effective treatment for microtears in other tendons, including the elbow, the patellar tendon and those in the rotator cuff within the shoulder.

Results of the study were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).