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Capsular Release

What is Capsular Release?

A capsular release of the shoulder is surgery performed to release a tight and stiff shoulder capsule, a condition called frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis. The procedure is usually performed arthroscopically through keyhole-size incisions.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder is formed by 3 bones; humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). The head of the upper arm bone fits into the socket of the shoulder blade forming a ball-and-socket joint. Tough connective tissue known as the shoulder capsule surrounds the joint.  For free movement of the shoulder, the shoulder capsule and joint are lubricated by synovial fluid.

What are the Causes of Frozen Shoulder?

The causes of frozen shoulder are not fully known. It occurs more in women and those between the ages of 40 to 60. Some of the medical conditions that can increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke

When is Capsular Release Indicated?

Capsular release of the shoulder is indicated when non-invasive and conservative approaches fail to mitigate symptoms of frozen shoulder such as pain and stiffness. Your doctor may recommend a capsular release of the shoulder in the following cases:

  • Failure of steroid injections
  • Failure of invasive treatments such as manipulation under anesthesia or joint distension
  • Failure of a rehabilitation program

What Happens During Capsular Release of the Shoulder?

Capsular release of the shoulder can be performed endoscopically or through open surgery; however, arthroscopic capsular release is the most common technique employed for capsular release due to its advantages.

The procedure will be performed under anesthesia while you are awake and seated in a beach-chair position. After adequately sterilizing the surgical area, a few keyhole-size incisions will be made through which the arthroscope and tiny cutting instruments are inserted. Your surgeon will look inside your shoulder and surgically release the scarred and tight shoulder capsule preventing free shoulder movement. Your surgeon will then gently stretch your shoulder joint through its full range of motion breaking any adhesions that are still tight. The instruments are then removed and the incisions closed.

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  • American Orthopedic Association logo
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  • Arthroscopy Association of North America logo