Surgical treatment of symptomatic acromioclavicular joint problems: a systematic review

R David Rabalais, Eric McCarty
Clinical Orthopaedics and related Research 2007, 455: 30-7
Excision of the distal clavicle has become the mainstay of surgical treatment for acromioclavicular joint arthritis and osteolysis refractory to nonoperative management. Surgical options for symptomatic acromioclavicular joint abnormalities refractory to nonoperative treatment are the classic open distal clavicle excision, direct (superior) arthroscopic excision, and indirect (bursal) arthroscopic distal clavicle excision. We asked whether any of these three procedures provided a better result. We systematically reviewed the medical literature (Medline, EMBASE), assigned a level of evidence for available studies, and critically identified the flaws and biases in the studies to provide comparisons between the published reports. We limited the literature review to clinical reports in the English language published in peer-reviewed journals. The literature supports surgical excision, but the reports are all Level III or IV evidence consisting largely of retrospective case series. Arthroscopic distal clavicle resection has provided more "good or excellent" results than has the open procedure, but is comprised of low-level evidence. Distal clavicle resection has provided satisfactory results when combined with other procedures. Simple distal clavicle resection may have worse outcomes when performed after preceding trauma. The published reports of the removal of medial acromial and inferior distal clavicle osteophytes when performing subacromial decompression are conflicting and may increase post-operative acromioclavicular symptoms.

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