Shoulder hydrodilatation (Joint injections)

Shoulder hydrodilatation is both a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure. The aim of the procedure is to decrease pain and improve mobility in the “frozen shoulder” (adhesive capsulitis).
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What is shoulder hydrodilatation?

Shoulder hydrodilatation is both a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure. The aim of the procedure is to decrease pain and improve mobility in the “frozen shoulder” (adhesive capsulitis). 

Shoulder hydrodilatation is an injection into the shoulder using cortisone or saline to suppress inflammation and improve mobility of the shoulder joint.
Your doctor would refer you for a shoulder hydrodilatation if you are demonstrating signs of adhesive capsulitis or “frozen shoulder”.

Adhesive capsulitis, or ”frozen shoulder” is a condition of the shoulder which results in the formation of inflammation and the subsequent production of scar like tissue in the shoulder joint producing, stiffness and restricted movement. The condition is common in diabetics and in this particular group, it may reoccur, often requiring several injections.

The cause of adhesive capsulitis is often not known. However, when known, common causes include:
• Rotator cuff tendinosis/tendon tears
• Subacromial bursitis
• Shoulder surgery
• Trauma
• Shingles
• Heart attack, chest surgery and stroke


How do I prepare for a shoulder hydrodilatation?

No special preparation is required before a joint injection and you may eat and drink as normal. If you are taking blood thinners you must tell the receptionist when making your booking. This will allow the radiologist to assess whether it is safe to do the injection.

On the day of your appointment, please bring any previous X-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI scans taken as part of your joint pain history. Please also tell the radiologist if you are allergic to any medications.

It may be best to wear comfortable clothing with easy access to the joint being injected.


What happens during a shoulder hydrodilatation?

Following the injection of local anaesthetic into the skin, a fine needle is inserted into the shoulder using x-ray control to ensure that it goes directly into the joint.

A small amount of contrast medium, long-acting local anaesthetic and steroid are injected into the joint. Sterile saline is then injected to distend the joint capsule and break down adhesions.

This may result in a transient feeling of tightness, increased pressure or heaviness in the shoulder or down the arm. 

What are the risks of a shoulder hydrodilatation?

There are very few side effects from hydrodilatation.

A mild allergy may occur, usually manifested by rash, and may last for a day or two.

The most serious potential complication is infection in the joint. This is more common in diabetic patients, but is rare, occurring in approximately 1 in 15,000 patients. If your shoulder becomes hot and red or you develop a fever, chills or sweats, please contact your doctor.

After the procedure

Please organise to have someone else drive you home. Avoid lifting heavy objects. Your referring doctor will advise on post-procedural exercises and movement.


How do I get my results?

Your doctor will receive a written report on your test as soon as is practicable.

It is very important that you discuss the results with the doctor whom referred you so that they can explain what the results mean for you.

How much will my procedure cost?

Fees for radiology procedures vary and depend on a number of factors, including the type of procedure, what has been requested on your referral and the Medicare rebates available. We will advise you of any fees associated with your examination at the time of making your appointment or when you arrive at the clinic. Alternatively you can contact us and one of our team will be happy to answer any queries regarding fees. For more information about fees and rebates please visit our account FAQs.

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