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Saline Wash May Ease Shoulder Tendonitis

WEDNESDAY Nov. 28, 2007 -- A new minimally invasive procedure is a quick, inexpensive way to treat tendonitis in the shoulder, Italian researchers report.

The researchers used ultrasound-guided percutaneous (through the skin) therapy to treat the shoulders of more than 2,000 people (average age 42) with calcific tendonitis, characterized by the formation of small calcium deposits within the tendons of the rotator cuff. These deposits can cause pain and restrict mobility.

Ultrasound-guided percutaneous therapy is a 10-minute procedure in which a radiologist, guided by ultrasound, injects a saline solution into the rotator cuff to wash the area and break up the calcium. A second needle is then used to remove the calcium residue. Patient recovery time is about an hour.

In 71.7 percent of patients, the calcification was fully removed in one treatment, resulting in improved mobility and pain reduction. In 23.6 percent of patients, a second treatment was required because of the presence of more than one calcification. In 3.8 percent of patients, the calcification had moved or dissolved before treatment. In 0.9 percent of patients, there was no easing of symptoms, due to the presence of a tendon tear.

The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

"This is a quick, successful and inexpensive therapy for tendon calcifications. It provides significant and long-lasting reduction of symptoms," Dr. Luca M. Sconfienza, of the department of radiology at A.O. Ospedale Santa Corona in Pietre Ligure, and the department of experimental medicine at the University of Genova, said in a prepared statement.

While only a few institutions currently offer this therapy, it could be performed in any hospital or clinic that has ultrasound equipment with a superficial probe, Sconfienza said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about shoulder problems.

Posted: November 2007


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