I've had tennis elbow for six months. My doctor has given me two choices: a steroid injection into the area or a slower method called iontophoresis. What can you tell me about this?
Iontophoresis is a way to use an electric current to send drugs into an area of tissue. Electrodes are used over the skin and the current "pushes" the ions through the skin. Ions are charged particles that can be moved one way or another using electricity.
A steroid injection into the elbow area has many possible problems. It can cause tendon rupture, nerve injury, infection, damage to the joint, and skin changes. Iontophoresis brings the drug to the elbow area in smaller doses over time. Usually, three to six treatments are given over a period of seven to 10 days. Each session takes 30 to 40 minutes.
Iontophoresis can reduce pain and increase motion with fewer local side effects. Some patients get a rash from the electrodes. Treatment is stopped or a different electrode is used.
Robert P. Nirschl, MD, et al. Iontophoretic Administration of Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate for Acute Epicondylitis. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March/April 2003. Vol. 31. No. 2. Pp. 189-195.
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