Injuries, normal wear-and-tear, overuse from repetitive sports, or even sleeping incorrectly at night can all cause shoulder pain.

Conservative methods for shoulder tendonitis treatment and other shoulder pain can decrease the potential need for future surgery and a long recovery. Drug therapies such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) as well as corticosteroid injections placed directly into the shoulder joint can relieve some pain. Physical therapy may help strengthen and stretch the shoulder.

However, if none of these other methods work and if you are the right candidate, an Interventional Radiologist might be able to help. Interventional radiologists serve an important function because they perform image-guided, minimally invasive procedures that lessen the need for some surgeries. One of these procedures is the ultrasound-guided lavage for calcific tendinitis of the shoulder.

Although the exact reason is unclear, calcium deposits may develop in the shoulder’s rotator cuff tendon. When a calcification grows large enough, it can restrict movement of the tendon making it difficult and painful to lift or move the arm. Depending on where in the tendon the calcium is deposited, a person may have pain and other symptoms or have no symptoms at all. When there is pain, it can be severe enough to affect daily routines such as dressing, lifting, and exercising.

Dr. Matthew Dicker is a local Interventional Radiologist at Yavapai Regional Medical Center who performs the ultrasound-guided lavage procedure to break up and remove these calcifications or assist the body in reabsorbing the built-up calcium.

According to Dr. Dicker, “There are many causes of chronic shoulder pain. This procedure is for those patients who have been diagnosed with calcific tendinitis of the shoulder involving the rotator cuff tendon. The pain from calcific tendinitis can come and go, so the pain has to persist despite conservative therapy including a trial of NSAIDS and possibly a steroid injection in the shoulder or physical therapy.”

An x-ray, MRI or CT Scan is needed to diagnose this condition. “These imaging techniques will identify if the calcification is large enough for the procedure,” explained Dr. Dicker. “The procedure takes less than 30 minutes and is done using local anesthesia only. The goals are to decrease pain, improve mobility, and allow patients to return to the lifestyle they were accustomed to before they began suffering from the pain of calcific tendinitis,” added Dr. Dicker.

Angela Bryan’s shoulder mobility returned after her recent ultrasound-guided lavage for calcific tendinitis.

Angela Bryan had the procedure performed in April and the results were remarkable. Within a couple of weeks and with shoulder calcification exercises, Angela was able to regain mobility she had not had in years and she is thrilled that she did not need to have surgery. Before the procedure, raising her arm in a routine manner was difficult.

“Let’s just get down to the basics: I couldn’t even put on a jacket. Even putting on a seatbelt…the simplest tasks were getting so painful,” Angela explained. Her main motivation for having the procedure was to be able to do basic life tasks because the pain was impacting her quality of life.

According to Dr. Dicker, “If the calcifications are large, the procedure may have to be done in stages, but usually the problem can be solved with just one outpatient procedure.”

“I was ready to have the surgery if this procedure didn’t take. But the following day I was like ‘Look at me! Look! Look!’ because I was able to have more mobility already,” said Angela.

Dr. Dicker said, “I am pleased with the results of the procedure and happy that Angela has regained some of the mobility in her shoulder that had been lost.”

For more information on ultrasound-guided lavage for calcific tendinitis, speak with your primary care provider or surgeon or call Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott at (928) 771-8477 to schedule an appointment for consultation and diagnostic imaging.