Complete dislocation of the acromioclavicular joint: operative versus conservative treatment
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The preferred treatment for complete acromioclavicular separation is still controversial. The purpose of this study was to compare conservative and operative treatment on the basis of a long follow- up period, including subjective and objective clinical assessments as well as radiological evaluation. Forty-two patients with complete acromioclavicular dislocation treated operatively and 38 patients treated conservatively were examined at a mean follow-up of 6.3 years (SD=2.5). Assessment included the UCLA and the Constant-Murley scores as well as evaluation of pain, function and satisfaction. Shoulder strength was measured objectively using a cable tensiometer in four planes. The operative technique was suturing of the torn ligaments and stabilization of the acromioclavicular joint using resorbable coracoclavicular PDS banding. In conservative treatment, early physiotherapy accepting the deformity was performed in most patients. Clinical results according to the UCLA and Constant-Murley Scores as well as evaluation of pain, function and strength were similar in both groups. Three months postoperatively, the conservatively treated patients had less pain, a better range of motion and a significantly earlier return to work. Post-traumatic osteoarthritis developed only in those patients whose acromioclavicular joint healed in partial dislocation. The persisting deformity, which must be expected in conservative treatment, did not affect the patient’s outcome regarding pain or function and especially not regarding shoulder strength. With respect to the time for recovery, conservative treatment is superior to operative management. Therefore, most patients can be treated conservatively, even those patients who are heavy overhead workers or overhead athletes.
Key wordsAcromioclavicular dislocation Conservative treatment Operative treatment Rockwood classification Shoulder strength
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