AC Joint Surgeon

Have you suffered from multiple shoulder separations? Athletes who participate in contact sports like football or hockey have a higher risk of shoulder separation and some cases can be severe. Recurrent shoulder separations can cause osteoarthritis in the AC shoulder joint. An AC resection may help relieve pain and restore function. AC resection surgeon, Doctor Riley J. Williams provides diagnosis as well as surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients in Manhattan and New York City, NY who have shoulder osteoarthritis or recurrent AC joint separations. Contact Dr. Williams’ team today!

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What is an acromioclavicular joint?

There are three joints located within the shoulder: the acromioclavicular joint, the glenohumeral joint, and the sternoclavicular joint. The acromioclavicular (AC) joint connects the acromion (highest portion of the shoulder blade) with the clavicle (collarbone). This AC joint be affected by a number of pathologic conditions:

  • AC joint separation – tearing of the ligaments from a blunt force trauma
  • Acromial impingement syndrome – caused by repetitive rubbing of the humerus against the acromion
  • AC joint osteoarthritis – caused by excessive joint loads that lead to cartilage loss. Osteoarthritis is most common in the hands and knees, but the AC joint can also be affected; patients who have suffered shoulder trauma are also at risk for the development of AC joint arthritis.

How is osteoarthritis of the AC joint treated?

Osteoarthritis of the AC joint can be treated with conservative measures; however, in the cases where conservative therapy is unsuccessful, an arthroscopic AC joint resection is recommended. This surgical procedure aims to relieve the shoulder pain by removing a small section of the distal clavicle. The scar tissue that forms in the absence of the excised bone allows flexibility in the AC joint, while relieving the pain associated with the pathologic bone-on-bone condition that characterizes AC joint arthritis. Dr. Riley J. Williams, orthopedic shoulder surgeon, treats patients in Manhattan, New York City, and the surrounding New York boroughs who have suffered from AC joint osteoarthritis and are in need of an AC joint resection.

How is an AC joint resection performed?

An arthroscopic AC joint resection is performed by inserting a small camera (arthroscope) into the shoulder joint. Inspection of the glenohumeral joint followed by the subacromial space is completed to rule out any other causes of shoulder pain. Utilizing a shaver and other specialized surgical instruments, approximately 6-9 mm of the distal clavicle is excised. The removal of this portion of the clavicle allows for flexibility of the AC joint without the pain of the clavicle and acromion rubbing against each other. The stabilizing ligament of the distal clavicle (CC ligaments) are preserved.

What are the benefits of an AC joint resection?

Dr. Williams prefers arthroscopic AC joint resection because it is minimally invasive. The incisions required for this procedure are small and allow for quicker recovery times. An arthroscopic AC joint resection decreases pain, inflammation. The risks of infection and blood loss are miniscule with this approach.

What is the recovery period like after an AC joint resection?

Although the recovery period is variable, most patients can expect to return to normal activities within 6 weeks following a successful AC joint resection.  Athletic activities resume 2-3 months after surgery. In general, patients in New York can expect the following:

  • Immediately following surgery, a sling is recommended for a week.
  • Pain control with ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Participation in a physical rehabilitation program. Patients are highly encouraged to begin moving their arm as soon after surgery as possible. Dr. Williams will provide a physical therapy program aimed at restoring strength and range of motion to the shoulder. The key to a successful AC joint resection recovery is adhering to and completing a physical rehabilitation program.

For more information on AC joint resection, or to find a treatment for osteoarthritis of the shoulder, please contact the office of Riley J. Williams, MD, an orthopedic shoulder surgeon serving Manhattan, New York City, and the surrounding New York boroughs.