Introduction: Frozen shoulder is a common condition that affects the working population. Current management regimes are variable nationwide and the evidence base on which to base these decisions is poor. The longevity and severity of symptoms often result in great economic burden, both to health services and in terms of absence from work. Early surgical intervention with arthroscopic capsular release may result in improved symptoms and earlier return to both work and leisure activities. Aims: The aim of our prospective cohort study was to investigate whether early intervention with arthroscopic capsular release resulted in improvement of symptoms and whether this would in turn provide overall economic benefit to society. Methods: Patients diagnosed with frozen shoulder at an elective orthopaedic specialist shoulder clinic were recruited prospectively. Data were gathered by way of questionnaire to ascertain the demographic information of the patient as well as their previous treatment in the primary care setting and absence from work. Initial Oxford Shoulder Score (OSS) was also calculated: Arthroscopic capsular release was then performed and further data gathered at four-week post-operative follow-up. Economic impact of delay to treatment and cost of intervention were calculated using government data from the national tariff which cost different forms of treatment. Statistical analysis was then performed on the results. Results: Twenty five patients were recruited. Mean results were: Age of patients: 53.5 years, duration of symptoms prior to intervention: 35.2 weeks, days absent from work: 31.5, number of previous physiotherapy sessions: 7.2, number of steroid injections: 1.3. Mean pre-operative OSS was 37.4 (range 27 - 58, SD 7.4). Mean post-operative OSS was 15.9 (range 12 - 22, SD 2.3), P < 0.01. Mean improvement in OSS was 21.5 (range 12 - 38, SD 7.1). The cost of non-operative treatment per patient including absence from work to the point of surgical intervention was ￡3954. The overall cost of arthroscopic capsular release per patient was ￡1861, a difference of ￡2093. There were no surgical complications. Conclusion: Arthroscopic capsular release improved shoulder function on OSS within four weeks. This is significantly shorter than the natural history of frozen shoulder. The overall cost of arthroscopic capsular release is significantly less than the cost of treating the patients non-operatively up to the point of surgical intervention. Early surgical intervention may improve symptoms quickly and reduce economic burden of the disease. A randomised controlled trial comparing early with late intervention would further elucidate potential benefits.
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