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Cryoanalgesia for shoulder pain: a motor-sparing approach to rotator cuff disease
  1. Agnes Reka Stogicza1 and
  2. Philip Peng2
  1. 1Anesthesia and Pain, Saint Magdolna Private Hospital, Budapest, Hungary
  2. 2Anesthesia, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Agnes Reka Stogicza, Anesthesia and Pain, Saint Magdolna Private Hospital, Budapest, 1023 Hungary; stogicza{at}


Introduction Rotator cuff disease is a common cause of musculoskeletal pain and disability, and the management can be challenging. Joint denervation emerges as a new technique, but the literature on shoulder neural ablation procedure is largely limited to pulsed radiofrequency due to the concern of motor impairment. We described a novel motor-sparing approach of cryoablation for the management of shoulder pain based on the recent literature on the innervation of shoulder.

Methods Four patients with a history of rotator cuff disease refractory to conservative therapy and not amenable to surgery underwent a ultrasound-guided cryoablation of the capsular branches of the shoulder joint after a positive diagnostic injection. The target articular branches were based on the anatomical landmarks described in recent publication. They were the acromial, superior and inferior branches of the suprascapular nerve, the anterior branch of the axillary nerve, the nerve to the subscapularis, which were all located around the superior, posterior and anterior glenoid. The lateral pectoral nerve articular branch was targeted at the coracoclavicular space.

Results All four patients experienced at least 60% pain relief with improvement in function for 6–12 months following the procedure without any clinical evidence of motor impairment. No adverse effect was observed.

Discussion Based on the current understanding of the glenohumeral joint articular branches and their relationship to the bony landmark, targeting the articular branches only was feasible and led to good outcomes. Further large prospective cohort study is needed.

  • Anesthesia, Conduction
  • Nerve Block
  • Pain Management
  • Ultrasonography
  • Upper Extremity

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  • Twitter @StogiczaAgnes, @DrPhilipPeng

  • Contributors Both authors contributed to the preparation of the manuscript.

  • Funding PP received equipment support from Sonosite Fujifilm Canada.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.