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Hydrodilatation (distension arthrography): a long-term clinical outcome series
  1. Lyn Watson1,
  2. Andrea Bialocerkowski2,
  3. Rodney Dalziel3,
  4. Simon Balster1,
  5. Frank Burke4,
  6. Caroline Finch5
  1. 1Lifecare, Prahran Sports Medicine Centre, Prahran, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Melbourne Orthopaedic Group, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4Victoria House Medical Imaging, Prahran, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Injury Risk Management Centre, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 L Watson
 Lifecare, Prahran Sports Medicine Centre, Level 1, 316 Malvern Road, Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia;prahran{at}


Objectives: To describe and compare the medium to long-term effectiveness of hydrodilatation and post-hydrodilatation physiotherapy in patients with primary and secondary glenohumeral joint contracture associated with rotator cuff pathology.

Methods: Patients with primary and secondary glenohumeral contractures associated with rotator cuff pathology were recruited into a 2-year study. They all underwent hydrodilatation, followed by a structured physiotherapy programme. Patients were assessed at baseline, 3 days, 1 week, 3 months, 1 year and 2 years after hydrodilatation with primary outcome measures (Shoulder Pain and Disability Index, Shoulder Disability Index and percentage rating of “normal” function; SD%) and secondary outcome measures (range of shoulder abduction, external rotation and hand behind back). Comparisons in recovery were made between the primary and secondary glenohumeral contracture groups at all timeframes and for all outcome measures.

Results: A total of 53 patients (23 with primary and 30 with secondary glenohumeral contractures) were recruited into the study. At the 2-year follow-up, 12 patients dropped out from the study. At baseline, the two contracture groups were similar with respect to their demographic and physical characteristics. The two groups of patients recovered in a similar fashion over the 2-year follow-up period. A significant improvement was observed in all outcomes measures over this period (p<0.01), so that both function and range of movement increased. The rate of improvement was dependent on the outcome measure that was used.

Conclusions: Hydrodilatation and physiotherapy increase shoulder motion in individuals with primary and secondary glenohumeral joint contracture associated with rotator cuff pathology. This benefit continues to improve or is maintained in the long term, up to 2 years after hydrodilatation.

  • SD%, shoulder disability percentage
  • SDI, Shoulder Disability Index
  • SPADI, Shoulder Pain And Disability Index

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  • Published Online First 18 December 2006

  • Competing interests: None declared.