PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Pathology - Physiology - Radiology and Medical Imaging

An MRI Study of Symptomatic Adhesive Capsulitis
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Author: Wen Zhao et al.

by Wen Zhao, Xiaofeng Zheng, Yuying Liu, Wenlu Yang, Vardan Amirbekian, Luis E. Diaz, Xudong Huang


Appilication of MR imaging to diagnose Adhesive Capsulitis (AC) has previously been described. However, there is insufficient information available for the MRI analysis of AC. This study is to describe and evaluate the pathomorphology of the shoulder in Asian patients with AC compared to healthy volunteers.

Methodology/Principal Findings

60 Asian patients with clinically diagnosed AC and 60 healthy volunteers without frozen shoulder underwent MRI of the shoulder joint. All subjects who were age- and sex-matched control ones underwent routine MRI scans of the affected shoulder, including axial, oblique coronal, oblique sagittal T1WI SE and coronal oblique T2WI FSE sequences. Significant abnormal findings were observed on MRI, especially at the rotator cuff interval. The coracohumeral ligament (CHL), articular capsule thickness in the rotator cuff interval as well as the fat space under coracoid process were evaluated. MRI showed that patients with adhesive capsulitis had a significantly thickened coracohumeral ligament and articular capsule in the rotator cuff interval compared to the control subjects (4.2 vs. 2.4 mm, 7.2 vs. 4.4 mm; p<0.05). Partial or complete obliteration of the subcoracoid fat triangle was significantly more frequent in patients with adhesive capsulitis compared with control subjects (73% vs. 13%, 26% vs. 1.6%; p<0.001). Synovitis-like abnormality around the long biceps tendon was significantly more common in patients with adhesive capsulitis than in control subjects. With regards to the inter-observer variability, two MR radiologists had an excellent kappa value of 0.86.


MRI can be used to show characteristic findings in diagnosing AC. Thickening of the CHL and the capsule at the rotator cuff interval and complete obliteration of the fat triangle under the coracoid process have been shown to be the most characteristic MR findings seen with AC.