Shoulder Separation (Acromioclavicular or ‘AC’ Joint Injury)

By surgically stabilizing the acromioclavicular (AC) joint combination of sutures, plates, or screws patients can heal thoroughly, rapidly and return to normal activities at a faster rate.

Patient Profile:

  • Shoulder Separation
  • (Acromioclavicular or ‘AC’ Joint Injury)

Acromioclavicular separations (aka “shoulder separations”) occur most commonly from falls impacting the shoulder. The AC joint is directly under the skin and largely absent of surrounding soft tissue, making separations cosmetically apparent (tenting under the skin), and painful. Many AC joint injuries can be treated without surgery. Frequently however, fixation of the AC joint is recommended in order to promote anatomic healing, especially for athletes or active persons who want to return to sports and fully active lifestyles as soon as possible after injury.

The benefits of AC joint surgery include restored length, less deformity, and a faster return to normal activities. The surgery typically involves some form of sutures, plating, and even reconstruction of the stabilizing ligaments. The patient is seated in the beach-chair position after a local anesthetic block is administered. Most commonly, a stainless steel plate or sutures are used to stabilize the separation and allow the ligaments to heal. Surgical technique is critical to ensure post-operative comfort, rehabilitation, and return to sports and strenuous activities.