Shoulder Hydrodilatation for Frozen Shoulder

What is hydrodilatation?

Hydrodilatation is a medical treatment for a stiff or frozen shoulder.  At Gateshead Health NHS Trust, this is done by the consultant radiologist in the ultrasound department. The procedure takes about one hour.  Under ultrasound scan guidance we will put local anaesthetic onto the skin and surrounding tissues and then, along with steroid into the joint itself; followed by a gradual increase of the joint space using saline solution.

How will it help?

The fluid pressure aims to stretch the fibrous joint capsule and break down adhesions that have been restricting the shoulder. The local anaesthetic which is given to the skin and surrounding tissues and along with the steroid into the joint helps to reduce pain in the first 24-48 hours, which helps you to begin physiotherapy. You should experience improvement in shoulder movement and shoulder comfort within a few weeks of the procedure.

Are there any risks?

Complications are rare following hydrodilatation. You will need to monitor your shoulder afterwards for signs of any new redness, warmth, swelling and increasing pain. If this occurs, seek medical advice urgently (either contact your GP or telephone 111 or attend A&E).

You may also feel some dizziness following the procedure so someone should drive you home afterwards. Please be aware that if you are diabetic the procedure may alter your blood sugars in the short term.

If you are on medication to thin your blood you may not be suitable for this procedure.

The risks include;

  • Infection (as with any invasive treatment) less than 1 in 1000
  • Bruising which is very uncommon or flare reaction; 1 in 100 (worse pain for 24/48 hours)
  • Allergy to medications is very rare – less than 1 in 1000

When can I return to work or sport?

This depends on the type of work or sport; those that involve heavy tasks or repetitive overhead reaching or lifting will require a longer period of time off.  It can vary from 1 week up to 6 weeks, please discuss this with your physiotherapist.

When can I drive?

When you achieve enough shoulder movement and feel comfortable and confident that you are safe. Always inform your insurance company beforehand. It is best not to drive on the day of the procedure.

Do I need pain relief?

Pain is often still present after the local anaesthetic has worn off; the procedure aims to reduce pain and improve movement, but this can take several weeks. Continue with your usual pain medication in order to complete the physiotherapy exercises you have been shown.

After the procedure?

Hydrodilatation is a day case procedure, allowing you to go home the same day. You should be accompanied and not leave the hospital on your own. It is also not safe to drive immediately after the procedure. You will receive some physiotherapy exercises to do at home and an appointment to see the physiotherapist the next day.

If you have not received your physiotherapy appointment, please contact the physiotherapy or radiology department, telephone numbers below.


Physiotherapy exercises must be carried out to restore normal movement at your shoulder. You will have an appointment the day after your hydrodilatation with a physiotherapist. 

Continue this until normal movement and function has been regained. It is important to take painkillers to allow you to do your exercises.

If you are unable to attend your appointment, please contact us immediately so that we can offer your appointment to another patient.

The following exercises should be started on the same day as the procedure and completed 25 times each, 3 times per day.

Video link to exercises:

  1. Lean forward and let your affected arm hang down, swing the arm forward and back, side to side and around in circles.

2. Put your hands on the table top, walk away and bend at waist to stretch shoulder joint.

3. Slide your hands up and down your back, using your other hand to help.

4. Stand facing a wall. Slide your hands up and down the wall as far as you can. Use blue-tack to mark your progress.

5. Stand facing a wall. Slide your hands up and around in circles, as wide as you can.

For further information contact

Radiology Department (QEH) Nursing Staff Pre-assessment

Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Sheriff Hill


NE9 6SX 

Telephone 0191 445 3260 (lines open between 8.00am–5.00pm)

Outpatient Physiotherapy Department (QEH)

Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Sheriff Hill


NE9 6SX 

Telephone number 0191 445 2320 (lines open between 8.00am–5.00pm)

Ask for the upper limb physiotherapist

Useful websites

If you would like further information about health conditions and treatment options, you may wish to have a look at the NHS Choices website at 

If you would like to find accessibility information for our hospitals, please visit

How do I make a comment about my visit?

We aim to provide the best possible service and staff will be happy to answer any of the questions you may have.

If you have any suggestions or comments about your visit, please either speak to a member of staff or contact the patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 0191 445 6129 (09.00 – 17.00, Monday to Friday).

You can also email PALS at [email protected]

Alternatively, you may wish to complain by contacting our complaints department:

Chief Executive,

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust,

Trust Headquarters,

Queen Elizabeth Hospital,

Sheriff Hill,



The PALS team will listen to your concerns, suggestions or queries and is often able to help solve problems on your behalf.

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential.  There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible.

In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, research, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews and Statistics. 

Further information is available via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website (Privacy – Gateshead Health) or by contacting the Data Protection Officer by telephone on 0191 445 8418 or by email [email protected].

This leaflet can be made available in other languages and formats upon request