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Arthroscopic treatment of acromioclavicular joint injuries and results

Gordon W Nuber, Mark K Bowen
Clinics in Sports Medicine 2003, 22 (2): 301-17
Injuries and conditions that affect the AC joint are common. Low-grade separations, degenerative conditions, and osteolysis of the distal clavicle are frequently dealt with by the treating physician. Proper assessment requires a thorough history, examination, and radiologic work-up. An injection of bupivicaine into the AC joint can be a very useful test to evaluate the source of pain about the symptomatic shoulder. Most conditions affecting the AC joint can be treated conservatively, but patients who do not respond to these treatments or athletes who do not wish to modify their activities may require resection of the distal clavicle and the AC joint. Operative intervention can be performed as an open procedure with good results. Recent advances in operative arthroscopic procedures allow us to replicate and exceed the results of the open resection. Arthroscopic resection can be undertaken via a direct approach that does not violate the subacromial space or via an indirect or bursal approach. The indirect approach allows you to assess both the subacromial space and the AC joint because impingement pathology and subacromial compromise are frequently associated with AC change. The advantage of an arthroscopic resection is its ability to be performed as an outpatient procedure with less compromise of musculotendinous structures, shorter rehabilitation, and quicker return to activity. The amount of bone resection necessary is less than with the open procedure because of the ability to preserve the stabilizing properties of the superior AC ligaments. Resection of 4 mm to 8 mm of bone is all that may be required to give uniformly good results. Arthroscopic resection of the distal clavicle is technically demanding and requires skill and familiarity with other arthroscopic shoulder procedures. Complications related to this procedure are relatively infrequent and include infection, residual pain, lack of adequate bone resection, and instability, particularly in patients with previous grade 1 and 2 separations. Less commonly noted is the symptomatic development of heterotopic bone. To the accomplished arthroscopic shoulder surgeon, arthroscopic resection of the symptomatic AC joint gives excellent clinical results that allow a compromised athlete a relatively quick return to desired sport activities.

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