Anterior shoulder joint capsule thickening is typically present in osteoarthritic shoulders, but its association with specific patterns of glenoid wear is incompletely understood. We sought to determine the relationship between anterior capsular thickening and glenoid deformity in primary glenohumeral osteoarthritis.

We retrospectively identified 134 consecutive osteoarthritic shoulders with magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scans performed. Axial fat-suppressed magnetic resonance imaging slices were used to quantify the anterior capsular thickness in millimeters, measured at its thickest point below the subscapularis muscle. Computed tomography scans were used to classify glenoid deformity according to the Walch classification, and an automated 3-dimensional software program provided values for glenoid retroversion and humeral head subluxation. Multinomial and linear regression models were used to characterize the association of anterior capsular thickening with Walch glenoid type, glenoid retroversion, and posterior humeral head subluxation while controlling for patient age and sex.

The anterior capsule was thickest in glenoid types B2 (5.5 mm, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.0-6.0) and B3 (6.1 mm, 95% CI: 5.6-6.6) and thinnest in A1 (3.7 mm, 95% CI: 3.3-4.2; P <  .001). Adjusted for age and sex, glenoid types B2 (odds ratio: 4.4, 95% CI: 2.3-8.4, P <  .001) and B3 (odds ratio: 5.4, 95% CI: 2.8-10.4, P <  .001) showed the strongest association with increased anterior capsule thickness, compared to glenoid type A1. Increased capsular thickness correlated with greater glenoid retroversion (r = 0.57; P <  .001) and posterior humeral head subluxation (r = 0.50; P <  .001). In multivariable analysis, for every 1-mm increase in anterior capsular thickening, there was an adjusted mean increase of 3.2° (95% CI: 2.4-4.1) in glenoid retroversion and a 3.8% (95% CI: 2.7-5.0) increase in posterior humeral head subluxation.

Increased thickening of the anterior shoulder capsule is associated with greater posterior glenoid wear and humeral head subluxation. Additional research should determine whether anterior capsular disease plays a causative role in the etiology or progression of eccentric glenohumeral osteoarthritis.

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