Calcific tendonitis means that your tendon has “dead” areas that have turned to bone. These calcium deposits in the tendon obviously make the tendon less compliant and more stiff. A tendon is the part of the muscle that attaches to bone and often acts like a rope going through a pulley or being pulled over a fixed point. Think about what would happen if you cemented portions of the normally supple rope so that they were stiff. As the rope was pulled through a pulley, it would more easily get stuck. This is what happens in calcific tendinitis. As a result, these areas of calcium deposits in the tendon can also cause irritation of the surrounding tissues which can cause pain and swelling. Traditionally, these areas have been cut out using open surgery, but this method is very invasive and has all the possible complications and side effects associated with a big shoulder surgery. A new study confirms what we’ve known for awhile, which is that a trained physician can get rid of these calcium deposits in the tendon with an ultrasound machine to guide a needle, rather than surgery. In this study, 34 shoulder tendons were treated and 6 other tendon areas. There was a reduction in the size of the calcium deposits on follow-up imaging and 80% of the patients had more than a 60% reduction in the size of their lesions. A very low complication rate was found and good clinical results. This technique is also known as “barotage” and can also be used to get rid of bone spurs through a needle. So for calcium deposits in your tendons, surgery doesn’t appear to be the best choice, instead using a needle to break-up and dissolve the area is likely a less invasive choice to help you avoid more invasive surgery.
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