Ann Rheum Dis 68:1843-1849 doi:10.1136/ard.2008.099572
  • Clinical and epidemiological research
  • Extended report

Efficacy and safety of steroid injections for shoulder and elbow tendonitis: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Open Access
  1. C Gaujoux-Viala1,
  2. M Dougados1,
  3. L Gossec1,2
  1. 1
    Paris Descartes University, Medicine Faculty; UPRES-EA 4058; APHP, Rheumatology B Department, Cochin Hospital, Paris France
  2. 2
    Université Montpellier I, EA 2415 Epidémiologie, Biostatistique, Santé Publique, Montpellier, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr C Gaujoux-Viala, Hôpital Cochin, service de Rhumatologie B, 27 rue du faubourg Saint-Jacques, 75014 Paris, France; cecilegaujouxviala{at}
  • Accepted 23 November 2008
  • Published Online First 3 December 2008


Objectives: To assess the efficacy and safety of steroid injections for patients with tendonitis of the shoulder or elbow.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature using PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane library and manual searches was performed until April 2008. All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) reporting the efficacy on pain or functional disability, and/or the safety of steroid injections, versus placebo, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or physiotherapy in patients with tendonitis were selected. Pooled effect size (ES) was calculated by meta-analysis using the Mantel–Haenszel method.

Results: In all, 20 RCTs were analysed (744 patients treated by injections and 987 patients treated by controls; 618 shoulders and 1113 elbows). The pooled analysis indicated only short-term effectiveness of steroids versus the pooled controls for pain and function (eg, pain at week 1–3 ES = 1.18 (95% CI 0.27 to 2.09), pain at week 4–8 ES = 1.30 (95% CI 0.55 to 2.04), pain at week 12–24 ES = −0.38 (95% CI −0.85 to 0.08) and pain at week 48 ES = 0.07 (95% CI −0.60 to 0.75)). Sensitivity analyses indicated similar results whatever the localisation, type of steroid and type of comparator except for NSAIDs: steroid injections were not significantly better than NSAIDs in the short-term. Steroid injections appeared more effective than pooled other treatments in acute or subacute tendonitis. The main side effects were transient pain after injection (10.7% of corticosteroid injections) and skin modification (4.0%).

Conclusions: Steroid injections are well tolerated and more effective for tendonitis in the short-term than pooled other treatments, though similar to NSAIDs. No long-term benefit was shown.


  • ▸ Additional data (Supplementary files) are published online only at

  • Funding Abbott France provided a grant to organise a meta-analysis methods workshop, but played no further role in the project.

  • Competing interests None declared.