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Avatar universal

Severe bursitis from flu shot-surgery?

Hello - I had a flu shot 2 months ago and it was give too high...actually in the shoulder joint.   I have had severe pain for 7 weeks. I have been to 3 doctors, had a cortisone shot, then an MRI and they can see a large amount of fluid in the bursa (bursitis) that has also seeped into the tendons. I cannot move my arm above my elbow.  Now the ortho Doc says he will need to do surgery to "clean it out".  My son will also not be getting the shot. We will NEVER get another flu shot. I am happy to hav found this thread ton know that I am not alone. I have also filed a adverse report with CDC. If we don't report it, they will never know. I encourage anyone that has this type of reaction to report it to the CDC....there is a website totally dedicated to this.  When I filed my report they said that they had many more reports filed this year.

My question is should I have the surgery to "clean it out" The pain was a 10 for 6 weeks, but seems to be a bit better. I still can't lift my arm, but the pain is not quite as bad. I have read many similar threads and welcome input from any one that has a similar issue. Thanks~
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8 Responses
Avatar universal

Let me first say that I continue to be strongly supportive of influenza vaccinations.

However, with medical procedures, both minor and major, complex and simple, there is always risk. Proper technique is an imperative when giving vaccinations.

That being said, your symptoms and imaging findings are concerning. If your symptoms began roughly eight weeks ago and are persistent, guidelines recommend that you at least attempt physical therapy in an effort to strengthen the rotator cuff tendons and prevent loss of range of motion. The physical therapy is often accomplished in parallel with an effort to decrease inflammation of the bursa (i.e. anti-inflammatory medications and/or a corticosteroid injection--which you have had) + avoiding activities that involve using your arm above 90 degrees.

Have you attempted physical therapy? If so, how often and for how many visits?

In general, for sub-deltoid bursitis, recommendations are for individuals to avoid activities overhead and to perform very light resistance rotator cuff strengthening exercises (http://www.livestrong.com/video/4695-rotator-cuff-exercise-with-resistance/)

So, it is very important to maintain strength of the rotator cuff tendons and the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder (see the above link).

How old are you? How tall are you and how much do you weigh? What sorts of sports did/do you play?

I hope that this response is helpful.

~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
Avatar universal
I would like to add that 3 different doctors confirmed that the injection wasn't in the muscle.  Thanks
Avatar universal
It has been almost 2 months, and I am experiencing the SAME thing as you.  I lift my hand to high and still experience HORRIBLE pain(almost in my nerve).  I try to work it out, and have asked my school doctor and he just said take an anti-inflammatory.  I don't have insurance and I am very concerned now.  Please share any advice or answers you receive.  I don't want to have any permanent damage and want to feel better :(
Avatar universal
Dr. Parks,

Thank you so much for responding.  I am 52 and am 5' 4" tall...I weight 175. I had NEVER had any type of shoulder issue prior to this. I swim in the summer recreationally...not competitively and I walk a few times a week.  

  They have not recommended PT and I do think that may help. Since my original posting, I have encountered 2 other individuals locally that have had a similar issue and one has had surgery. The finding were disturbing as it relates to joint cavity which makes me wonder if this years vaccine was different than previous years and has a chemical component that is creating more damage.

  I also forgot to mention that The MRI findings showed a bone spur on the clavicle. Apparently there is also fraying on a tendon. They are recommending that this be repaired so that there is not a tear in years to come, but if these issues were present prior to the shot, I had NO pain....was totally unaware~ I will post the exact findings tomorrow.
Avatar universal
Thanks so much!
Avatar universal
ACROMION/SUBACROMIAL OUTLET: There is a type ll acromion demonstrated with minimal lateral spurring. Mild to moderate degenerative change noted at the AC joing, including subchondral edema in the distal clavicle as well as the acrommion. There is an undersurface spur which midly indents the suprasinatus muscle belly.

ROTATOR CUFF: Moderate to severe subacromial/subdeltoid bursitis is noted. There is mild generalized suprasipinatus and infrasinatus with bursal side fraying but no discrete tear. This is most prominet at the anterior aspect of the supraspinatus insertioin. Subscapularis tendon also demonstrated mild tendonitis.

BICEPS TENDON/ANCHOR: No medial sublusxation. Thereis probable mild proximal tendinosis at the rotator interval.

CAPSULAR/LABRAL STRUCTURES; Chronic appearing degenerative tearing noted at the superior labrum. The remainder of the labrum is preserved. Scarring of the axillary pouch is seen but no increased signal to confirm adhesisve capsulitis.

1-Moderate to severe subacromial/subdeltoid bursiitis. This likely mechanical, but given history related to vaccine correlate for any clinical findings of low grade infection.
2-Mild suprasipinatus tendinosis with brussal sided fraying but no discrete rotator cuff tear.
3-Minimal lateral acromial spurring. There is also mild undersurface AC joint spurring contributing to the narrowing of the subcromial outlet. Moderate Arthrosis at hte AC joint itself.
4Chronic appearing degenerative tear of the superior labrum.

Again--I reitereate that I had NO PAIN prior to this shot. Please let me know your thoughts.


Avatar universal
Hello again,

The only findings on your MRI which COULD be directly related to a misplaced vaccination are the findings related to the sub-deltoid bursitis. Many, if not all, of the other findings could be present on MRI of an asymptomatic shoulder. In addition, findings numbered 2-4 in your posting are not typically reflective of an acute problem and likely represent "wear and tear" related to a years of an active lifestyle.

Again, in general, with symptoms like the ones that you describe and in the setting of the imaging findings that you present in your posting, a trial of 4-6 weeks of physical therapy may be helpful and help patients avoid a surgical procedure.

I hope that this response is helpful to you.

~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for your comments and your willingness to share. That information is very helpful. I also think PT would help. I have increased mobility...at least to 45 degrees and the pain is not quite as intense. I am trying to see if I can get a second opinion by next week.

I so appreciate this site, your willlingness to share your knowledge and your time. I will let you know the outcome.

Many Thanks~

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