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OBJECTIVE: Local steroid injections and community-based physiotherapy have been shown to be of similar benefit for treating shoulder pain presenting to primary care. This paper presents a cost consequences analysis of a prospective economic evaluation, conducted alongside a randomized clinical trial (RCT) of corticosteroid injections versus physiotherapy for new episodes of unilateral shoulder pain, to determine the economic implications of injection versus physiotherapy. METHODS: A pragmatic RCT with 207 patients randomized to either physiotherapy (n = 103) or local steroid injection (n = 104) was conducted. The resource inputs required were identified for each treatment arm in terms of capital, staff and consumables. These were measured for the period up to 6 months post-randomization. Outcome measures included shoulder disability, shoulder pain, global assessment of health change and the EQ5D, all at 6 months. A sensitivity analysis was performed around the general practitioner minor surgical fee. RESULTS: Analysis is presented on the 199 patients for which the general practice record review (101 physiotherapy, 98 injection) was available. The total mean costs, per patient, were 71.28 pound sterling for the injection group and 114.60 pound sterling for the physiotherapy group. The difference in average total cost per patient was 43.32 pound sterling (95% bootstrap confidence interval: 16.21 pound sterling, 68.03 pound sterling ). This is a statistically significant difference in cost. Outcome was similar in both groups across all measures following intervention. Smaller mean differences in cost were observed between the treatment groups in the sensitivity analysis, but the difference remained in favour of injection over physiotherapy. CONCLUSIONS: This study has shown, given similar clinical outcomes across the treatment groups, that corticosteroid injections were the cost-effective option for patients presenting with new episodes of unilateral shoulder pain in primary care.

Original publication





Rheumatology (Oxford)

Publication Date





1447 - 1451


Adult, Aged, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Disability Evaluation, England, Female, Glucocorticoids, Health Care Costs, Humans, Injections, Intra-Articular, Male, Methylprednisolone, Middle Aged, Physical Therapy Modalities, Primary Health Care, Prospective Studies, Shoulder Pain, Treatment Outcome