Capsular release is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis). This is a condition that develops when the capsule of connective tissues surrounding the shoulder thickens and tightens, causing pain and restricted movement. Most frozen shoulders can be treated by physiotherapy but some, which don’t respond to physiotherapy or other treatments, may require surgery.
Capsular release is performed using a minimally invasive surgical procedure under local or general anaesthetic. If you are having a local anaesthetic the area will be numbed and you will be given a sedative to help you relax. Three small incisions are made on the shoulder and an arthroscope and another instrument inserted. The arthroscope contains a camera that allows your surgeon to see inside your shoulder. Once the condition of the shoulder has been evaluated, the other instrument is used to cut tight capsular tissues surrounding the shoulder joint. Using radiofrequency waves the surgeon can also cauterise the tissue, minimising any bleeding. The incision sites are then closed with sutures. You will be given good pain relief and also follow-up physiotherapy to support your rehabilitation and help to restore full movement to your shoulder.
Capsular release is generally used to treat a frozen shoulder that has not responded to other forms of treatment, including corticosteroid injections, joint distension and shoulder manipulation.
The time it takes to recover fully from capsular release surgery can vary, but it generally takes six weeks to three months and you will need to continue with your physiotherapy to ensure a good recovery. If you have a manual job or one that involves a lot of lifting or working above your head you may not be able to return to work for a minimum of two weeks after surgery. Your physiotherapist or consultant will discuss how long you need to take off work, as well as when it is safe for you to return to any sporting activities.
Long-term outcomes are generally good, with most people reporting either zero or significantly reduced pain after surgery. In some cases, however, some stiffness remains and the shoulder may not recover the full range of movement. This is more common in people with diabetes. It is uncommon but not impossible for a frozen shoulder to recur.