Acromioclavicular Arthritis

The acromioclavicular joint is a diarthrodial joint which contains a meniscus. It has multiple anatomic variations and allows approximatly 40° to 50° of rotation. The meniscus normally dessicates with age and the majority of people will develop radiographic signs of arthritis in the acromioclavicular joint with age. Acromioclavicular arthritis generally is not painful and causes no symptoms.

In some people acromioclavicular joint arthritis is painful. This is more common in people who are active with repetitive overhead activity, weight lifters, football players and throwing athletes. Painful acromioclavicular joint arthritis may also occur after injury such as AC separations.

Symptomatic acromioclavicular joint arthritis causes pain isolated to the acromioclavicular joint. Acromioclavicular joint palpation reproduces the painful symptoms. Your orthopaedic surgeon can determine if AC joint arthritis is the cause of your shoulder pain based on x-rays and physical exam findings.

Treatment options for acromioclavicular joint arthritis include simple observation, medications such as motrin, activity modifications, and acromioclavicular joint injections. Must patients will improve with non-operative treatment. Occasionally patients fail to improve without surgery and surgical care is needed to releave the symptoms of acromioclavicular arthritis.

Surgical options include arthroscopic distal clavicle resection and open distal clavicle resection. The goal of the surgery is to remove the arthritic acromioclavicular joint.

Potential complications of surgery include but are not limited to: acromioclavicular joint instability, clavicle/acromion fracture, shoulder stiffness, incomplete relief of pain, incomplete return of function or motion, incomplete return to sport, need for further surgery, infections, ectopic calcification, reactive bursitis, CRPS, nerve or vascular injury, hematoma, DVT/PE, and the risk of anesthesia including heart attack, stroke and death. Complications are uncommon and the most patients are satisfied with the results of surgery.

After surgery patients are placed in a sling for comfort. They may remove the sling when it is not painful which is generally within 2 weeks. Patients begin pendulum exercises immediately. Patients are generally seen 10 to 14 days after surgery to begin a home exercise program or physical therapy. Patients start sport specific training at 6 weeks post-op and return to full activity at 3 months. As every person is different any given patients post-operative course may vary.

More information about acromioclavicular arthritis is available in the following links:

Every person and their particular circumstances are different so the treatment for your shoulder may be different than those discussed. Please read this information carefully. Write down any questions that you have about your shoulder and its treatment and discuss them with your orthopaedic surgeon. Working together you and your orthopaedic surgeon will determine the best treatment for you.

Synonyms: 
Distal Clavicle Resection, Acromioclavicular Joint Resection, ACJ Resection, AC Arthritis

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