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Lessons learnt from the painful shoulder; a case series of malignant shoulder girdle tumours misdiagnosed as frozen shoulder

Gerald MY Quan1, Derek Carr1, Steven Schlicht2, Gerard Powell13 and Peter FM Choong13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedics, St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Australia

2 Department of Medical Imaging, St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Australia

3 Division of Surgical Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, Australia

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International Seminars in Surgical Oncology 2005, 2:2  doi:10.1186/1477-7800-2-2

Published: 12 January 2005


Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is a common condition characterized by shoulder pain and stiffness. In patients in whom conservative measures have failed, more invasive interventions such as arthrographic or arthroscopic distension can be very effective in relieving symptoms and improving range of movement. However, absolute contraindications to these procedures include the presence of neoplasia around the shoulder girdle. We present five cases referred to our institution where the diagnosis of shoulder joint malignancy was delayed, following prolonged, ineffective treatment for frozen shoulder. These cases highlight the importance of careful review of the radiology and the need for reconsideration of the diagnosis in refractory "frozen shoulder".

Frozen shoulder; adhesive capsulitis; hydrodilatation; distension; tumour