AC Joint Dislocation

What is an AC joint dislocation?

An acromioclavicular (AC) joint dislocation, often called a “shoulder separation,” is a traumatic injury to the AC joint that results in injury to the acromioclavicular ligaments and/or coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments. It may result in elevation of the clavicle relative to the acromion.

What causes an AC joint dislocation?

An AC joint dislocation occurs most frequently after a fall directly onto the shoulder. This is common in contact athletes, cyclists, skateboarders, skiiers/snowboarders, etc. The force on the lateral aspect of the shoulder is transmitted through the AC joint, which can, in minor cases cause injury tothe AC ligaments only, and in more severe cases, cause injury to both the AC and CC ligaments.

What are the symptoms of an AC joint dislocation?

The symptoms of an AC joint dislocation are correlated with the severity of the injury. A mild AC joint injury will result in pain over the AC joint in the absence of a deformity or instability. More severe injuries will result in pain over the AC joint in addition to a deformity on the top of the shoulder and instability at the AC joint.

How is an AC joint dislocation disagnosed?

Diagnosis is made using a combination of patient history, physical examination, and X-rays. Physical examination often reveals a deformity at the top of the shoulder. Patients will also often have pain when they place their arm across their body or lift a weight overhead. X-rays are helpful in assessing the severity of the injury and can be compared to the non-injured side. X-rays are also used to classify the injury, which helps determine the best treatment.

How is an AC joint dislocation treated?

Treatment for AC joint dislocations is determined by a combination of factors, which include patient age, activity level, and AC joint dislocation type.

Types 1 and II are treated without surgery using a combination of NSAIDs and physical therapy. Treatment of type III dislocations is controversial and depends heavily on the patient’s age, activity, and preference.

Types IV, V, VI are treated with surgery. Surgery involves a combination of arthroscopic and open techniques.

Dr. Dare will work with you to determine the treatment option that will provide the most optimal outcome.

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