One of the most common shoulder injuries, acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) dislocations account for around 9% of shoulder girdle injuries
This is injury is more common in
- athletes (especially full contact)
- ages between around 20-40
It is classified Grade I-VI (Rockwood classification) with I representing a sprain with no radiographical signs and V&VI significant displacement of the clavicle.
- The patient will express pain at the ACJ and have tenderness over this point.
- Cross arm adduction will illicit pain at the ACJ (a blunt test for problems with ACJ – maybe chronic or acute)
- Altered contour of the shoulder at the ACJ compared to other side.
Diagnosis and classification is made clinically and radiographically
Normal and Grade I
There is a gap visible between the distal clavicle and acromium (5-8 mm – narrower in the elderly)
There maybe a small amount of widening of the joint space in Grade I
The inferior borders should align.
There is widening of the ACJ space
The inferior border of the clavicle is raised in respect to the acromium but not above its superior border.
Note the altered soft tissue line over the superior edge of the distal clavicle.
The inferior border of the clavicle is raised in respect to the acromium above its superior border.
The clavicle is displaced posterior into the trapezius.
The Clavicle is markedly elevated with coracoclavicular distance more than twice normal.
The clavicle is inferiorly displaced behind coracobrachialis and biceps tendons.
Comparative views can be useful if you are clinically suspicious of an ACJ injury, but normal AP views are not conclusive.
Treatment and Referral
Manage in a sling
refer to Upper Limb Physio.
Grade I&II likely managed conservatively.
Grade III management varies dependant on specialist and patient.
Manage in a sling.
Consider referral to on call orthopaedics,
otherwise Upper Limb Physio.
Very likely to need surgery.
Grade VI (very rare)
Refer to on call orthopaedics.
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