Ultrasound-guided pulsed radiofrequency stimulation of the suprascapular nerve for adhesive capsulitis: a prospective, randomized, controlled trial

Yung-Tsan Wu, Cheng-Wen Ho, Yi-Ling Chen, Tsung-Ying Li, Kuei-Chen Lee, Liang-Cheng Chen
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2014, 119 (3): 686-92

BACKGROUND: The treatment of adhesive capsulitis (AC) is a well-known, complicated, and long process. Recent studies have shown that pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) lesioning of the suprascapular nerve (SSN) using a fluoroscopy- or computed tomography-guided technique can alleviate shoulder pain. However, there are no studies of PRF lesioning of the SSN in patients with AC using ultrasound-guided (UG) techniques, except for 2 case reports. In this study, we compared the effect of physical therapy alone with physical therapy and PRF lesioning of the SSN using a UG technique.

METHODS: Sixty patients with AC were included in the study. Patients were randomized into the following 2 groups: the intervention group containing patients who received 12 weeks of physical therapy after 1 treatment of PRF lesioning of the SSN, and the control group containing patients who received 12 weeks of physical therapy alone. All outcome measurements including visual analog scale (VAS), shoulder pain and disability index, and passive range of motion (PROM) were performed at 1, 4, 8, and 12 weeks after treatment.

RESULTS: Forty-two patients (21 patients in each group) completed the study. The intervention group had a notably shorter time to onset of significant pain relief (6.1 ± 3.4 vs 28.1 ± 9.2 days; P < 0.001) and noticeable reduction of VAS score at week 1 (40% vs 4.7%) than the control group (P < 0.001). All measured variables in the intervention group and most variables in the control group showed significant improvement from the baseline (P < 0.05). A comparison of the 2 groups indicated significantly greater improvement in the intervention group at all times in VAS and shoulder pain and disability index scores (all P < 0.05), and for most gain of PROM (P < 0.05). There were no serious adverse effects or complications in either group.

CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that the application of PRF lesioning of the SSN using a UG technique combined with physical therapy provided better and faster relief from pain, reduced disability, and improved PROM when compared with physical therapy alone in patients with AC, an effect that persisted for at least 12 weeks.

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