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What is Arthroscopic Frozen Shoulder Release?

Arthroscopic Frozen Shoulder Release

An arthroscopic frozen shoulder release is a minimally-invasive shoulder surgery performed to relieve pain and restore normal function using a special instrument called an “arthroscope”.

Overview of Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder, also called “adhesive capsulitis”, is a painful condition in which the shoulder becomes stiff and inflamed resulting in limited movement of the joint.

The condition occurs when the strong connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint (called the shoulder capsule) becomes thick, tight, and inflamed. This leads to scarring of the capsule making the shoulder bones unable to move freely within the joint. Over time, the shoulder may become hard to move.

The surgery is aimed at releasing the tight capsule in the shoulder joint.

Indications for the Surgery

The main indication for surgery is residual pain or continued stiffness in the shoulder and functional restrictions of the shoulder, even after prolonged conservative management including medications, physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Risk Factors of Frozen Shoulder

The frozen shoulder most commonly affects people who:

  • Are aged 40 to 70
  • Occurs in women more often than men
  • Have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, etc.
  • Had a shoulder injury including fracture or shoulder surgery
  • Have had a prolonged period of shoulder immobilization

Preparing for Surgery

Prior to surgery, you will be instructed to:

  • Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking
  • Not to drink or eat anything the night before the surgery
  • Arrange someone to drive you home after the surgery
  • Come with clothing that is easy to put on and take off

The Surgery

Arthroscopy to release a frozen shoulder is usually performed on an outpatient basis so you should be able to go home the same day. Just before the surgery, you will be given local or general anesthesia to make you numb to pain or make you sleep as needed.

During surgery:

  • Several small incisions are made around the affected shoulder joint.
  • An arthroscope is guided to the affected spot to view the joint damage.
  • Tiny instruments are inserted through small incisions around your shoulder.
  • The tight part of the capsule is cut through and the scar tissue is removed.
  • The capsule is divided and released to allow the movement of the shoulder joint.
  • The instruments are taken out and the incisions around the shoulder are sutured and a dressing applied.

The surgery usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. Most patients have reported good outcomes with the procedure.

What Happens Immediately After Surgery?

Soon after the surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room where you will rest for about an hour while being monitored.

After Surgery Care

After the surgery, you will be advised to:

  • Undergo physical therapy immediately
  • Take pain medications at regular intervals
  • Keep the site of the procedure bandaged
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry
  • Splint the arm to keep the capsule stretched (rarely)

Risks or Complications

Rarely, some people may experience continued pain or a stiff shoulder even after prescribed rehabilitation.

Other risks include:

  • Infection, nerve or cartilage injury
  • Recurrence of frozen shoulder (rare)


The recovery time usually varies from 6 weeks to 3 months and depends on your occupation and compliance with physical therapy.

Your commitment to rehabilitation plays a vital role in your successful recovery and is the key factor in quickly returning to normal activities.


  • Reduced or no pain in the shoulder
  • Full range of shoulder motion
  • Improved quality of life