by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Frozen Shoulder—Arthroscopic Surgery)


Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) is a tightening of the tissue around the shoulder joint. It makes it hard to move the shoulder. This surgery improves range of motion by removing scar tissue.

Frozen Shoulder
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Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to:

  • Ease pain
  • Improve range of motion in the shoulder
  • Break up scar tissue

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve injury
  • Damage to soft tissue
  • Instability or stiffness in joint
  • Fracture

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity
  • Prior shoulder surgery

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as images


General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.

Description of the Procedure

Three small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A special tool called an arthroscope will be inserted. An arthroscope is a flexible tube with a light at the end and a camera attached. This will allow the doctor to view the inside of the shoulder on a screen. Tiny instruments will be inserted into the other incisions. The doctor will cut and remove scar tissue. The arthroscope will be removed. The incisions will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the area.

How Long Will It Take

About 2 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can help.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people leave the same day. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Right after the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Raise the shoulder to ease swelling
  • Apply ice to the area
  • Put your arm in a sling to support the shoulder

Physical therapy will be started soon after surgery.

Preventing Infection

During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

You can also lower your chance of infection by:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions
At Home

It may take 6 months to 2 years to fully recover. Physical activity will be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infections, such as fever and chills
  • Increasing redness, swelling, pain, excess bleeding, or discharge
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Tingling or numbness that will not go away, especially in the arms and hands

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 

Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 


Canadian Orthopaedic Association 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation 


Adhesive capsulitis of shoulder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Frozen shoulder. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Le HV, Lee SJ, et al. Adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder: review of pathophysiology and current clinical treatments. Shoulder Elbow. 2017 Apr;9(2):75-84.

Shoulder arthroscopy. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Revision Information