AC Joint Dislocation could also be treated without Surgery: Study

A new study published in the Journal of Orthopedic Trauma is suggesting that common shoulder injury can even be treated effectively without surgery. The researchers writing the paper have pointed out that although severe dislocations of the joint are usually treated surgically, patients opting for non-surgical procedures tend to suffer from fewer complications and get back to work much sooner.

For those who don’t know: the acromioclavicular joint or AC joint is located right on top of the shoulder in between the shoulder blade and the collarbone. This joint often gets injured when people take part in sporting activities. An individual can also get his or her AC joint dislocated due to falls and vehicle accidents.

If it’s a minor dislocation of the joint, surgeons usually ask patients to undergo physiotherapy and wear a sling for a specific period of time, mostly 4 to 6 weeks. More severe injuries require patients to undergo surgery using screws and a plate.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael McKee of St. Michael’s Hospital said that although severe dislocations of the SC joint is usually treated surgically, not much evidence could be gathered that suggest that surgery is the best possible treatment for the condition.

During this new study, a total of 83 patients suffering from moderate to severe dislocations of the AC joint were either made to undergo plate-n-screw surgeries followed by rehabilitation, or they received nonsurgical treatment that involved use of a sling and rehabilitation.

All these patients were monitored by the researchers and examined at regular intervals for a period of two years. The researchers tracked complications experienced by them, and their level of disability. They also found out how satisfied the patients were with the status of their shoulder after the injury.

The researchers noted that the patients in the nonsurgical group showcased greater mobility compared to the ones in the surgical group during follow-up sessions held six weeks and three months following the injury. On the other hand, after six months, one year and two years, no significant differences could be observed in patients belonging to the two groups.

Dr. McKee reported that after three months of suffering the injury, over 75% of patient in the nonsurgical group could get back to work. The share was just of 43% in the surgical group.