Subacromial corticosteroid injection is reserved for patients with no response to initial treatment with impingement syndrome, subacromial bursitis and/or rotator cuff disorders. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and activity modification are the initial treatments to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- symptomatic subacromial impingement syndrome
- rotator cuff disorder
- adhesive capsulitis
Infection/cellulitis of the overlying skin, osteomyelitis of the adjacent bone and bacteremia are absolute contraindications.
Allergic reaction to disinfectants and local anesthetics, more than 3-4 corticosteroid injections per patient per year, poorly controlled diabetes, coagulopathy and glaucoma are relative contraindications.
The skin is disinfected. Sterile gloves are worn, and a 21-27 gauge needle is used to penetrate the skin parallel or oblique concerning the surface of the probe and 2 cm away from the probe. The needles progress is monitored in real time with ultrasonographic guidance, and the injection is performed when the tip appears to be inside the bursa. Hypoechoic fluid can be seen spreading inside the bursa while injecting. The thinner the needle, the more difficult it is to identify the needle and to perform the injection.
A dose of corticosteroid (0.5 mL of dexamethasone 4 mg/mL) with local anesthetic (1-1.5 mL of bupivacaine 0.5%) can be used for analgesic effect.
- review contraindications
- review previous images
- perform complete ultrasound study of the affected shoulder to confirm a diagnosis
- informed consent
Positioning/room set up
US guided corticosteroid injections into the subacromial-subdeltoid bursal space are carried out with the patient sitting on a chair with the patient's back turned to the doctor. Lateral approach is the most frequently used approach in which the long axis of the supraspinatus is parallel to the probe. The appropriate position of the shoulder is identified with ultrasound (the thickest part of the bursa or the area with more fluid accumulation in the bursa), the patient is asked to stay still and keep the position.
- sterile gauze
- sterile gloves
- skin disinfectant
- 21 to 27 gauge long needles
- local anesthetic: 1-1.5 mL of bupivacaine 0.5%
- corticosteroids: 0.5 mL of dexamethasone 4 mg/mL
Lateral approach is the most frequently used approach in which the long axis of the supraspinatus is parallel to the probe, and the needle is inserted parallel or oblique in relation to the probe and 2 cm away from the probe to avoid the sterile needle contact with the probe.
Avoidance of shoulder overuse for 2-3 days is recommended to the patients.
Symptoms suggesting infection and the possibility of pain and rash at the site of the injection are explained to patients.
Infection is the most common complication. Vasovagal reaction within 5-10 minutes post procedure, flushing of the skin within 2-3 days after the injection are the side effects of corticosteroid injection.
Subacromial-subdeltoid bursal injection is a straightforward and well-tolerated procedure by the patients. Corticosteroid can be injected into the appropriate space confidently under ultrasonographic guidance, and vascular, neural and tendons are avoided with certainty during the procedure.
- 1. Weidner S, Kellner W, Kellner H. Interventional radiology and the musculoskeletal system. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2004;18:945–956.
- 2. Sibbitt W.L, Jr, Peisajovich A, Michael A.A, Park K.S, Sibbitt R.R, Band P.A. Does sonographic needle guidance affect the clinical outcome of intraarticular injections? J Rheumatol. 2009;36:1892–1902.
- 3. Molini L, Mariacher S, Bianchi S. US guided corticosteroid injection into the subacromial-subdeltoid bursa: Technique and approach. J Ultrasound. 2012;15 (1): 61-8. doi:10.1016/j.jus.2011.12.003 - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
- 4. Molini L, Mariacher S, Bianchi S. US guided corticosteroid injection into the subacromial-subdeltoid bursa: Technique and approach. J Ultrasound. 2012;15 (1): 61-8. doi:10.1016/j.jus.2011.12.003 - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
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