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Shoulder arthroscopic release

Arthroscopic release is a procedure to remove abnormal scar tissue from the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint. The aim is to create more space for the tendons, restoring movement and reducing pain in the shoulder joint.

It’s a procedure that is often used to treat frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis). This is when the tissue in the shoulder capsule has thickened and become tight, causing stiffness and pain.

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, talk to an expert. An early diagnosis may mean that it’s possible to treat frozen shoulder using steroid injections and physiotherapy.

What is frozen shoulder?

Patients with frozen shoulder often describe an aching down the side of their shoulder or increasing pain and stiffness over a relatively short period of time. If you bend your elbows and move your arms out to the side, there will be less movement in the frozen shoulder.

However, while frozen shoulder can be the cause of a stiff shoulder, it’s possible to experience stiffness in the shoulder without it being ‘frozen shoulder’. In addition, it is possible for frozen shoulder to be misdiagnosed as a nerve or tendon impingement.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

While the exact cause of frozen shoulder has yet to be determined, we do know that it causes the capsule tissue to become inflamed, which makes it tighten and shrink. Some patients experience symptoms after an injury or surgery. It’s also an issue that seems to affect patients with diabetes.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain or stiffness, book a consultation with an expert. This will involve a physical examination, after which you may be referred for further diagnostic tests, such as an X-Ray, MRI or ultrasound.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

It may be possible to treat the symptoms with a steroid injection and physiotherapy. It is also possible that it will heal on its own over time, but this can take 18-24 months. Understandably, some patients are looking for a more proactive approach.

If you have been experiencing pain for a long time or you’ve tried steroid injections and they haven’t relieved your symptoms, then the next step may be surgery. Your consultant will discuss their recommendations with you during your consultation.

Your arthroscopic release questions answered

Arthroscopic capsular release is a procedure that aims to remove the thickened, abnormal areas of tissue from an inflamed shoulder capsule. This releases the joint, creating more space for the tendons and restoring normal function.

The aim of arthroscopic capsular release (ACR) is to free the capsule within the shoulder so that it can move more easily.

Arthroscopy is a keyhole procedure that allows for greater precision. It involves inserting a small camera into the shoulder joint, which also enables your surgeon to look for other issues during the procedure.

The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic and usually takes less than an hour.

During the procedure, your surgeon will use a radiofrequency thermal probe to cut and remove the thickened tissue.

Arthroscopic release surgery is usually a day-case procedure. This means that most patients can return home on the same day as their surgery.

Our specialist team will ensure you are fully prepared ahead of surgery. This may include advising you not to eat, smoke or take certain medications before your operation.

On the day of your surgery, you will need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital as you won’t be able to drive.

It typically takes between six and nine months for patients to make a full recovery, but many patients notice improvements after three months. Until that time, you will need to avoid certain movements and sports. Your consultant will discuss this with you ahead of surgery.

It is likely that you will be wearing a sling at first. You may be offered a nerve block (regional anaesthesia) to help with the pain, as well as standard painkillers to take at home. You won’t be able to drive at first, but many patients are able to drive and return to work after around a week.

Physiotherapy will form an essential part of your recovery and it usually begins straight away or within a few days of surgery.

Most patients make a good or excellent recovery (80%), but no surgery is without risk. For arthroscopic release, complications can include infection, blood clots, nerve damage and the risks associated with anaesthetic.

In very rare cases, the acromion can fracture, and this will require further surgery to fix the issue. It is also possible that the joint will stiffen up again after surgery. While some stiffness is to be expected during the healing phase, if this continues, your consultant will advise on the next course of action, which may include a steroid injection.

There may be risks not listed above and the consultant will discuss these and the limitations of surgery with you ahead of the procedure.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in your shoulder, it’s important to talk to an expert. At Sulis Hospital Shoulder and Elbow Unit, we offer access to specialist Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons with shorter waiting times.

If surgery is recommended, you’ll be welcomed into our state-of-the-art facilities by a team of shoulder and elbow specialists. These include theatre nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, who are dedicated to enhancing our patients’ comfort, safety and recovery.

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Typical hospital stay Daycase

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

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