Response of knee ligaments to prolotherapy in a rat injury model

Kristina T. Jensen, David P. Rabago, Thomas M. Best, Jeffrey J. Patterson, Ray Vanderby

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84 Scopus citations


Background: Prolotherapy is an alternative therapy for chronic musculoskeletal injury including joint laxity. The commonly used injectant, D-glucose (dextrose), is hypothesized to improve ligament mechanics and decrease pain through an inflammatory mechanism. No study has investigated the mechanical effects of prolotherapy on stretch-injured ligaments. Hypotheses: Dextrose injections will enlarge cross-sectional area, decrease laxity, strengthen, and stiffen stretch-injured medial collateral ligaments (MCLs) compared with controls. Dextrose prolotherapy will increase collagen fibril diameter and density of stretch-injured MCLs. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Twenty-four rats were bilaterally MCL stretch-injured, and the induced laxity was measured. After 2 weeks, 32 MCLs were injected twice, 1 week apart, with either dextrose or saline control; 16 MCLs received no injection. Seven uninjured rats (14 MCLs) were additional controls. Two weeks after the second injection, ligament laxity, mechanical properties (n = 8), and collagen fibril diameter and density (n = 3) were assessed. Results: The injury model created consistent ligament laxity (P <.05) that was not altered by dextrose injections. Cross-sectional area of dextrose-injected MCLs was increased 30% and 90% compared with saline and uninjured controls, respectively (P <.05). Collagen fibril diameter and density were decreased in injured ligaments compared with uninjured controls (P <.05), but collagen fibril characteristics were not different between injured groups. Conclusion: Dextrose injections increased the cross-sectional area of MCLs compared with saline-injected and uninjured controls. Dextrose injections did not alter other measured properties in this model. Clinical Relevance: Our results suggest that clinical improvement from prolotherapy may not result from direct effects on ligament biomechanics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1347-1357
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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