Frozen shoulder--an algoneurodystrophic process?

Published online: Dec 27 1998

L P Müller, M Rittmeister, J John, J Happ, and F Kerschbaumer.

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Klinik und Poliklinik für Unfallchirurgie.


The frozen shoulder syndrome and the Sudeck syndrome are clinically in many aspects similar. Radioisotope bone scan shows an increased uptake in the affected areas in both diseases, while standard radiographs show a progressive demineralization. With measurement of bone-mineral density by quantitative digital radiography these local decalcification processes were diagnosed in an early stage of the frozen shoulder syndrome: of 12 patients with primary frozen shoulder 10 had a bone-mineral density decrease of more than 21% in the humeral head of the affected shoulder compared to the unaffected side. In the control groups (n = 32) the difference between affected and unaffected side (left and right humerus of the healthy probands) was in only one case each above 21%. There are several indications in the literature assuming the frozen shoulder to be an algoneurodystrophic process. Our observation supports this hypothesis, and may possibly lead to earlier diagnosis and improved therapeutic management.