Shoulder joints allow us to bend, flex, reach, and rotate our arms. However, repetitive overhead movements that are common to some sports and jobs frequently overstress the shoulder joints resulting in injury.
When problems related to tendon tears, instability, fractures, arthritis and other conditions impede movement, both surgical and non-surgical treatments are considered to ease pain and help restore movement.
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The ball is called the head of the humerus and the socket is called the glenoid (it’s part of your shoulder blade, also known as the scapula). Sometimes, arthritis can form here. On top of this ball and socket joint is another bone known as the acromion. This is a frequent place for bone spurs to form. Right next door to the acromion is the acromioclavicular joint or “AC joint” for short.
When nonsurgical treatment does not relieve pain, your doctor may recommend surgery. He or she may perform an anterior acromioplasty, in which part of the acromion is removed. This is also known as a subacromial decompression. These procedures can be performed using either an arthroscopic or open technique.
In arthroscopy, thin surgical instruments are inserted into two or three small puncture wounds around your shoulder. Your doctor examines your shoulder through a fiberoptic scope connected to a television camera. He or she guides the small instruments using a video monitor, and removes bone and soft tissue. In most cases, the front edge of the acromion is removed along with some of the bursal tissue.
Your surgeon may also treat other conditions present in the shoulder at the time of surgery. These can include arthritis between the clavicle (collarbone) and the acromion (acromioclavicular arthritis), inflammation of the biceps tendon (biceps tendonitis), or a partial rotator cuff tear.
Open surgical technique
In open surgery, your doctor will make a small incision in the front of your shoulder. This allows your doctor to see the acromion and rotator cuff directly to make the repair.