Shoulder Specialties AC Joint Decompression/ Stabilization

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AC Joint Decompression/Stabilization Overview

The AC joint is a strong articulation that connects your shoulder blade to the collar bone. The ligaments and capsule of the AC joint provide stability and support the complex motions of the shoulder joint. These structures can be injured by acute trauma (i.e. fall with direct blow) or the joint may have painful degeneration over time (i.e. arthritis). AC joint decompression or stabilization type surgery aim to reduce pain and restore function following injury.

Why AC Joint Decompression/Stabilization?

The goals of surgery are (1) to stabilize the AC joint in patients with symptomatic instability after acute or chronic injury or (2) to decompress the joint to alleviate pain when patients experience symptomatic arthritis. Arthroscopic and/or mini-open surgical techniques are utilized to treat dysfunction following injury.

Who Should Have AC Joint Decompression/Stabilization?

Patients with acute or chronic AC joint instability and dysfunction following traumatic injury may be candidates for surgery. In general, conservative measures including physical therapy, medications, and/or injections are attempted before surgery in indicated for most low and mid-grade injuries. High grade (i.e. Type 4-6) AC joint injuries are typically treated with surgical stabilization (i.e. AC joint repair/allograft reconstruction).

Patients with painful dysfunction relating to chronic AC joint arthritis may be candidates for arthroscopic or mini-open AC joint decompression if they fail the above conservative measures. This procedure alleviates pain from AC joint arthritis and improves function and quality of life.

What Can I Expect From AC Joint Decompression/Stabilization Surgery?

Depending on patient age, activity level, and specific diagnosis of AC instability or arthritis, arthroscopic and/or mini-open surgery might be performed. Arthroscopic intervention include AC joint decompression and mini-open surgery involves AC ligament reconstruction or repair. These procedures take 30 minutes to 2 hours to perform. Patients have an initial period of protection ranging from 2-6 weeks. Post-operative rehabilitation is performed 2-3X/week for several months. Return to work/sport is INDIVIDUALIZED and is based on minimum time from surgery (3-6 months) and, more importantly, functional progression with rehabilitation.

“I want to give a big shout out to Dr. Seth Sherman. I have my 1-year post-op appointment on October 4th (literally, my 1-year anniversary). Dr. Sherman gave me my life back by performing a very rare knee surgery on me. Without him and his knowledge and wonderful team, I would still be lacking a life without any type of activity.” – Whitney

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