Frequency of Shoulder Injections for Pain & Stiffness Post Shoulder Surgery & Their Potential to Enhance Physiotherapy

What is the rate of injecting patients with shoulder corticosteroid injections to alleviate excessive stiffness and pain within 6 months after shoulder surgery?

A retrospective 10-year review of a shoulder surgeon’s practice was taken place. Participants included 754 patients who had 945 non-arthroplasty shoulder surgeries. Outcome measures included the rate of injections, diagnoses, patient characteristics, and efficacy via questionnaire.

Approximately one in five patients received a subacromial and/or glenohumeral corticosteroid injection. Over 95% of patients stated that the injections helped reduce shoulder pain and increased function 6 weeks post-injection. Twenty-two percent of cases (208/945) received glenohumeral and/or subacromial injections. The 208 injected cases had these diagnoses: rotator cuff tear (28% of injected patients), subacromial impingement (20%), glenohumeral instability (16%), subacromial impingement with acromioclavicular osteoarthritis (10%), adhesive capsulitis (7%), SLAP lesion (5%), biceps tendinopathy (3%), glenohumeral instability with subacromial impingement (3%), proximal humerus fracture (2%), calcific tendinitis (2%), and less common conditions (4%). Diagnoses among those with the highest rates of injected patients per diagnosis included: SLAP lesions (40%), calcific tendinitis (40%), adhesive capsulitis (29%), subacromial impingement (28%), proximal humerus fracture (24%), rotator cuff tear (19%), and glenohumeral instability (16%). Significant differences (p < 0.03) were found between patients who did and did not receive injections with respect to age (more likely younger patients with cuff tear) and sex (more likely female with subacromial impingement and instability) but not for diabetes or arthroscopic vs. open procedures.

This is the first study to establish the rates of postoperative shoulder corticosteroid injections within the first 6 months after various non-arthroplasty shoulder surgeries for patients with high pain/stiffness. These data will be useful for establishing guidelines for using corticosteroid injections along with physiotherapy.