Acromioplasty: Procedure, Purpose and Complications

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Acromioplasty, also referred to as an arthroscopic acromioplasty, is a surgical procedure performed on the shoulder and its structures. It is performed to reduce shoulder pain due to an impingement. It is most often performed to alleviate pain related to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This joint is where the tip of the shoulder blade meets the collarbone.

Purpose of This Procedure

This surgical procedure is performed to relieve pain. When a person often overuses their shoulder they may develop tendinitis or bursitis, collectively referred to as impingement. An impingement will cause the tissues located underneath the acromioclavicular joint to pinch against the bone, resulting in pain and irritation. An impinged shoulder may also develop bone spurs which can cause further pain and irritation. This surgery will create more room in this joint by reshaping it to reduce, or sometimes even eliminate, any associated pain and irritation. This procedure will often be accompanied by another surgical procedure such as a debridement, a distal clavicle resection, a subacromial decompression or a coracoid ligament removal.

Procedure Description

Before an acromioplasty, the patient will discuss any medication allergies and their medical history with their doctor. The doctor will then order any necessary imaging and the patient will put on a hospital gown. The patient will then be anesthetized with either general or local anesthesia. During the surgery the surgeon will create several half-inch incisions so that an arthroscope can be placed in the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint will then be cleansed to allow for better visibility with a sterile saline solution. The surgeon will use a monitor that magnifies the area that is being operated on and then all necessary surgical procedures will be performed. First, all damaged or dead tissue that is surrounding the joint will be removed. They will then test for bone spurs with an impingement test. If a bone spur is present it will be removed. After the procedure the patient may need to remain in the hospital for a few days.

Possible Complications

Since this is a surgical procedure complications can occur. During anesthesia some patients may experience an adverse reaction. This reaction can be quite serious in some patients leading to anaphylaxis. Other complications may include surgical wound infection, neurovascular injury, risk of developing arthritis, stiffness and muscle weakening. Though very rare, patients are at risk for developing blood clots.


Patients will wear a sling for a little while after surgery and they will be prescribed pain medication to help them cope with the pain. Many patients recover well after this procedure and notice a significant decrease in their pain and irritation. However, some patients may experience complications. If a patient experiences increased pain, decreased ability to move the joint, decreased sensitivity in the area that was operated on and prolonged swelling they should notify their doctor as soon as possible. Patients may also in addition to pain medication require physical therapy or cortisone injections for best results.


Simonian, P., Dr., (2006). Arthroscopic Acromioplasty. Retrieved on August 24, 2009 from Website: