AC Joint Surgery

What is an AC Joint Injury?

The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is the joint between your acromion (A) and clavicle (C) at the top of your shoulder. It is commonly injured following a fall onto the point of the shoulder (especially common in cyclists) or in collision sports. An AC joint dislocation occurs when ligaments that normally stabilise this joint are disrupted.

Not all AC joint injuries are the same, there is a spectrum of injury from mild to severe. The mild injuries will often heal adequately without intervention and result in an essentially normal shoulder with full function whereas the more severe injuries will often require surgery to avoid long term problems.

There is a subset of injuries somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (grade 3 injuries) in which the outcomes are less predictable. This makes decision making difficult. An early (within 2-3 weeks) and individualised assessment and treatment recommendation is the best way to ensure you optimise your outcome following this kind of injury.

Surgery for AC Joint Injuries

If surgery is performed for AC joint injuries, the primary aim is to stabilise the clavicle to the scapula. There are a variety of techniques that have been developed to do this and your doctor will discuss the details of what surgery may be required for your specific circumstances.

Recovery after Surgery for AC Joint Injuries

Following surgery, you will need to protect the repair for a period of time to allow the ligaments to heal and the AC joint to be strong enough to withstand the forces of day to day, workplace and sporting activities. Before going ahead with surgery, your doctor will discuss with you what rehabilitation will be involved and the short-term implications this may have on things like work and driving a vehicle.

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