Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder News

Surgeons Test New Method to Repair Torn AC Joint

Many people are familiar with the terms "shoulder separation" or "AC separation" because this is a common injury among athletes. In this injury the ligaments holding the collar bone (just above the shoulder joint) to the acromion of the shoulder blade are torn or damaged.

Many operations have been tried to help repair this problem. None have succeeded 100 percent. Most often AC joint injuries are treated without surgery. In this study surgeons tested a new way to surgically repair an AC separation. They used six cadavers (bodies preserved after death for study) to do the experiment.

First they applied enough force to stress the AC joint to the point of failure. They measured how much force or load was needed to displace the joint. Then they used three different methods of repair and tested the strength of each reconstruction.

Only one repair method had the same tensile strength as the normal AC joint. This was done using a tendon graft from the wrist (flexor carpi radialis tendon or FCR). The graft was used to replace the torn AC ligaments. The most popular repair method used today (modified Weaver-Dunn procedure) was only half as strong as the normal AC joint.

The authors conclude the FCR tendon graft is a better way to repair AC joint separation. This method restores the normal anatomy and provides a stable joint. They say the technique is fairly easy to perform. No screws or wires are used preventing problems that occur with that type of fixation.


Paul W. Grutter, MD, and Steve A. Petersen, MD. Anatomical Acromioclavicular Ligament Reconstruction. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. November 2005. Vol. 33. No. 11. Pp. 1723-1728.

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