, Volume 122, Issue 4, pp 200-203

Early arthroscopic release in refractory shoulder stiffness

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Frozen shoulder is still an enigma in shoulder surgery. It is reported that at 2 years after onset most patients will have recovered whether treated or not. To decrease time to recovery and improve the results of this condition, a number of different treatment modalities have been used. In our unit, all patients with frozen shoulder were selected for the arthroscopic release technique if a conservative program of physical therapy had failed to restore motion after 6 months and if they had no known extra-articular contractures. A prospective study was undertaken of 36 patients with refractory frozen shoulder who were treated with an arthroscopic capsulotomy between November 1997 and October 1999. There were 22 women and 14 men with an average age of 49 years (range 32–63 years). All of the patients were assessed for pain, function, and range of motion before surgery. Five patients were diabetic. An arthroscopic capsular release improved motion in all patients, with substantial relief of pain. Follow-up averaged 18 months (range 10–26 months). The median preoperative Constant score rose from 29 to 66 at the time of follow-up. By a mean of 8 weeks after treatment, 75% of the patients had returned to work. One patient developed recurrent refractory stiffness. There were no complications related to the procedure. This study demonstrates that arthroscopic capsular release can be a safe and effective tool in the management of refractory shoulder stiffness and is an effective way of shortening the course of an apparently self-limiting disease.