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Contracture of the deltoid muscle. Results of distal release.

We prospectively studied the results of distal release, performed between February 1989 and December 1994 for the treatment of a contracture of the deltoid muscle, in forty patients (forty-nine shoulders). Forty-seven contractures (in thirty-eight patients) developed after multiple intramuscular injections of various medications. The two remaining contractures (in two patients) were congenital. The average age at the onset of the symptoms was thirty-two years (range, birth to fifty-eight years). The primary symptoms included pain around the neck and the shoulder girdle, dimpling of the skin, a palpable fibrous band, winging of the scapula, difficulty in combing the hair or reaching the contralateral side of the body for grooming, and inability to bring the arm adjacent to the body. The average age at the time of the operation was thirty-nine years (range, fifteen to sixty-three years). The average duration of follow-up was three years and eleven months (range, two years to six years and six months). After the distal release of the contracture, but on the same day, the patients started a physical-therapy program. Postoperatively, the pain, dimpling of the skin, palpable fibrous band, and winging of the scapula resolved in forty-eight shoulders (thirty-nine patients). Six patients (six shoulders) no longer had difficulty in combing the hair or adducting the shoulder. There were no infections or neuromuscular complications. Forty-seven (96 per cent) of the forty-nine shoulders (thirty-eight of the forty patients) had a good clinical result, and two shoulders (two patients) had a poor result. Anterosuperior subluxation of the humeral head, noted on preoperative radiographs of twenty-three shoulders (eighteen patients), was not present postoperatively. Drooping of the acromion, seen in six patients (six shoulders) in whom the contracture had developed before they were sixteen years old, improved postoperatively in five shoulders (five patients). Rotation of the scapula, seen in five shoulders (five patients), resolved after release of the contracture in all five. There were no clinical or radiographic signs of osteoarthrosis due to long-term anterior translation of the shoulder joint in the four patients (six shoulders) who had had the contracture for at least twenty years (average, twenty-three years; maximum, twenty-seven years).

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