Fall 2018

‘Lifting the veil’ on shoulder injuries

Two University of Minnesota researchers are studying whether fluoroscopy can provide a clearer path for treatment

Ever had a shoulder injury? About 45 percent of us will at some point in our lives, according to Jonathan Braman, M.D., an associate professor in the Medical School’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a University of Minnesota Health orthopaedic surgeon. But even though shoulder problems are so common, medicine struggles to speak with one voice when it comes to diagnosing and treating them.

“We can define high blood pressure and we can measure cholesterol exactly,” he says. “But when it comes to orthopaedic diagnoses, many of them aren’t very reliable.”

That’s why Braman and University colleague Paula Ludewig, Ph.D., P.T., launched a clinical study to see if fluoroscopy—essentially, moving X-rays—could more accurately evaluate shoulder injuries and help determine whether surgery or physical therapy would be best to solve each person’s problem. The U is one of six institutions to offer the use of fluoroscopy through this study.


Early results are promising, Braman says. Fluoroscopy is cheaper than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and provides much greater detail for conditions like hypermobility and frozen shoulder than any other diagnostic tool. 

As he hones his study, Braman works closely with computer scientists and borrows tools developed for civil engineering applications to create 3-D computer modeling of the fluoroscopy images—a process he says is like “lifting the veil, allowing us to see the problem in a way we haven’t been able to do before.

“Our goal is to harness the power of science to diagnose and treat shoulder problems correctly,” he adds. “And, since shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, it could have really significant impact.”