Purpose: Adhesive capsulitis involving the glenohumeral joint (frozen shoulder) is an insidious and painful condition that results in gradual loss of joint motion. Recovery is frequently prolonged despite multiple therapeutic maneuvers. The authors investigate the mechanism of action and the long-term clinical result of distention arthrography for the treatment of patients with frozen shoulder.
Patients and methods: Sixteen patients with adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder were treated with therapeutic capsular distention by using intra-articular injection of a 30-mL mixture of lidocaine, corticosteroid, and contrast media immediately following diagnostic arthrography.
Results: Capsular disruption was demonstrated in all cases. Thirteen patients (80%) experienced immediate pain relief and increased shoulder mobility. This improvement was maintained over a follow-up interval of 6 months or more. Disruption occurred at the subscapular bursa in eight patients, the subacromial bursa in six, and the distal bicipital tendon sheath in two. These latter two patients had no pain relief.
Conclusion: Arthrographic distention of the constricted capsule appears to be an excellent therapeutic intervention for achieving rapid symptomatic relief from adhesive capsulitis.