Humber River Regional Hospital’s cutting-edge imaging procedure unlocking ‘frozen shoulder’

Carole Freeman is combing her hair again; this time the way she wants; and with her right hand. But that wasn’t the case a few weeks ago. “I had a complete lack of flexibility,” says the energetic 63 year-old country dancer and pilates enthusiast. “I had difficulty unfastening my bra; I had trouble drinking soup and I couldn’t sleep on one side. I was really limited in my daily tasks.”

Freeman is one of many people diagnosed with frozen shoulder, or “adhesive capsulitis” – a condition that typically affects women between the ages of forty and sixty, in most cases occurs for no reason at all, and causes a severe restriction of motion in the shoulder joint.

Luckily for Freeman, her battle with frozen shoulder ended when she was referred to Dr. Anthony Mascia – an internationally renowned Radiologist and Director of MRI at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH). “I heard he was the one who could help me, but I had no idea what the procedure was called or what it entailed,” admits Freeman. “I asked around and tried to do some research beforehand but I couldn’t find a lot of information. To be honest, I thought I was coming in to get another type of cortisone shot,” she says.

Therapeutic Arthrogram – a cutting-edge procedure used to open up a frozen shoulder – is something Dr. Mascia has been working on developing, expanding and fine tuning at Humber River for the last eight years. He’s also spent many hours teaching this procedure to various radiology, sports medicine colleagues and chiropractic residents, and sharing his expertise in this area with medical professionals from around the world. To the best of Dr. Mascia’s knowledge, he is the only physician in Ontario and one of a handful in Canada who performs this unique procedure that brings pain relief to people who suffer from frozen shoulder.

“This is a highly effective technique that uses imaging guidance to open up a frozen shoulder,” explains Mascia. “Using sterile technique, I inject the needle into the shoulder joint, freeze the lining of the shoulder and under fluoroscopic guidance (a low dose of x-ray) I distend the shoulder joint with air and insert the needle to areas where the shoulder is locked. The procedure takes between ten and fifteen minutes and the benefits are unbelievable.”

As part of the procedure, Dr. Mascia guides the patient through a comprehensive full range of motion routine before they leave the treatment room. Through these exercises, the patient is able to see the instant benefits of therapeutic arthrogram. “Dr. Mascia was so wonderful,” says Freeman. “I was nervous but he talked to me throughout the procedure and distracted me from what was going on. He also told me exactly what he was doing and kept asking me if I was okay. Immediately after, I could move my arm much better than I had in the last several months,” she exclaims. “I could get my arm up in the air a lot higher. It was amazing!”

Freeman’s positive results didn’t end there.

“When I got home, I noticed almost right away that I could undo my bra at the back. That’s something I haven’t been able to do – without being in chronic pain – for a long time,” she says. “And the day after the procedure, when I went to pilates class, I was a little stiff but I noticed a huge difference in my range of motion. I was able to do moves I hadn’t done in months! The greatest thing is: I haven’t taken any pain killers since before the procedure – when I was taking Advil up to four times a day for the last six months – and I didn’t even take any the day of,” she adds.

“The procedure produces excellent results,” notes Mascia. “In many cases, it prevents people from having to go through surgery and allows them to return to sports or their daily activities much faster. But therapeutic arthrogram is only the beginning of the healing process,” he adds. “After the procedure, the patient follows a specific physiotherapy and rehabilitation routine for several weeks.”

Adhering to a wellness routine is something Freeman says she doesn’t mind doing at all.

“I’ve been in agony for so long. It feels really good to be back doing the things I love everyday!”

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