Key Points about Frozen Shoulder Surgery

  • Surgery to repair a frozen shoulder is arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
  •  Surgery to repair a frozen shoulder is indicated only when all nonsurgical methods have not provided relief.
  •  During frozen shoulder surgery, your doctor will make a series of incisions and repair the area with small surgical instruments inserted in the incisions.
  •  It may take three months or more to recover from frozen shoulder surgery.


Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is performed to repair a frozen shoulder. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a minimally invasive procedure using an arthroscope to diagnose and treat the frozen shoulder. 

People who undergo arthroscopic surgery generally recover quicker with fewer complications than patients who undergo an open procedure.

Most patients experience symptom relief after surgery, but the recovery process is lengthy.

Candidates for frozen shoulder surgery

Your doctor will evaluate your case to see if you are a candidate for surgery to relieve the frozen shoulder. Surgery is typically reserved for patients who have not experienced relief with nonsurgical treatments.

Risks associated with frozen shoulder

While arthroscopic shoulder surgery to treat frozen shoulders is generally safe, complications can occur. Your doctor will outline the benefits and risks before deciding to perform surgery. 

Complications may include:

  • Infection. Infection is a risk associated with surgery. Shoulder surgeries, such as arthroscopic surgery to treat frozen shoulders, are prone to developing Staph and Strep. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • Nerve injury. Several nerves are surrounding the shoulder joint that could be damaged during shoulder surgery.
  • Chondrolysis. Chondrolysis is a serious complication that can lead to arthritis in the joint. While rare, if this chondrolysis occurs after a young person experiences an athletic injury, the shoulder can be permanently damaged for life.
  • Injury to head and neck. In rare instances, the head and neck can be injured due to the proximity of the shoulder joint to the head and neck. Your doctor and anesthesiologists will take care to protect the head and neck during surgery.

Preparation for frozen shoulder surgery

In preparation for arthroscopic shoulder surgery for a frozen shoulder, your doctor will outline what you should expect before, during, and after surgery. Guidelines may include:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Inform your doctor if you have a fever, cold, or illnesses before surgery.
  • Prepare to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • If you live alone, consider hiring a home health nurse to help you after surgery or checking into a rehabilitation facility.

What to expect during frozen shoulder surgery

Your doctor will perform arthroscopic shoulder surgery on a frozen shoulder. During arthroscopic shoulder surgery, your doctor will make a series of small incisions. He or she will then insert an arthroscope (with a camera on it) into the shoulder joint to locate the affected area. Through the other incisions, your doctor will insert small medical instruments to cut the tight shoulder capsule that is causing your shoulder to freeze.

After surgery, your doctor may require you to wear an arm splint to keep the capsule of the shoulder in place. Physical therapy is essential to help you regain strength and flexibility in the joint.

Duration of frozen shoulder surgery

Recovery from surgery for a frozen shoulder can be a slow process. It can take as long as three months for a full recovery. It is essential to carefully follow your physical therapy routine so you can return to your activities as quickly as possible.

Most patients experience significant pain relief and improved range of motion after surgery. 

In rare cases, a frozen shoulder can recur if you have diabetes.

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