SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
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Oral steroids for adhesive capsulitis.

BACKGROUND: This review is one in a series of Cochrane reviews of interventions for shoulder pain in adults.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy and safety of oral steroids for adhesive capsulitis.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Searches of the Cochrane Library including CENTRAL, Issue 4, 2005, Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL were conducted in November 2005, unrestricted by date or language.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Only studies described as randomised controlled trials studying participants with adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder, stiff painful shoulder or periarthritis and interventions of oral steroids compared to placebo, no treatment, or any other treatment were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two independent reviewers assessed methodological quality of each included trial and extracted data. Standard Cochrane methodology was used to analyse the extracted data.

MAIN RESULTS: Five small trials were included: two trials (30 and 49 participants) of oral steroids or placebo; one trial (40 participants) of oral steroids or no treatment; one trial (28 participants) of oral or intra-articular steroids; and one trial (32 participants) of manipulation under anaesthesia and intraarticular steroid injection with or without oral steroids. Study participants were similar across trials, but no trial used the same oral steroid regimen or dosage. Trials were of variable quality (only one of high quality) and some were poorly reported. No meta-analyses could be performed as no raw data could be extracted from one placebo-controlled trial and three trials used different comparators. One trial reported significant short-term benefits of oral steroids versus placebo: 48% more participants reported success (RR = 2 (95% CI 1.3 to 3.1, NNT=2); overall improvement in pain 2.7 (95% CI 1.4 to 4.0) on a 0 to 10 point scale; total shoulder abduction increased by 23.3 degrees (95% CI 11.3 to 35.3); Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) score improved by 18.1 (95% CI 7.6 to 28.6) on a 0 to 100 point scale. But benefits were not maintained at 6 weeks. A second trial reported no significant differences between oral steroid and placebo in pain or range of movement but it suggested improvement occurred earlier in the steroid treated group. A third trial reported that oral steroids provided a more rapid initial improvement in pain compared to no treatment but negligible differences by five months. There were minimal adverse effects reported.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Available data from two placebo-controlled trials and one no-treatment controlled trial provides "Silver" level evidence (www.cochranemsk.org) that oral steroids provides significant short-term benefits in pain, range of movement of the shoulder and function in adhesive capsulitis but the effect may not be maintained beyond six weeks.

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