What is a Sub Acromial Decompression for shoulder impingement?

This picture shows a shoulder, which includes the gleno-humeral (ball and socket) joint. The acromion and the end of the clavicle form a bony arch over the top of the humerus. The space under the acromion is called the subacromial space. The structures within the space include the bursa (a lubricating structure) and the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles.

Subacromial impingement occurs when bony changes occur either on the under surface of the acromion or the acromioclavicular joint. There is also inflammation in the bursa, which often becomes thickened. There may be some involvement of the rotator cuff tendons.

The operation aims to smooth out the bone, effectively making the space larger and so decreasing pressure on the tendons. The surgeon does this via key-hole surgery and shaves away part of the acromion.

Possible associated procedures

During your operation your surgeon will use a tiny camera to look inside your shoulder for other areas of damage. It may be necessary to do an additional procedure at the same time. These include:-

  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Acromio-clavicular joint excision

What are the risks of having a Sub Acromial Decompression?

All operations involve an element of risk, these are very small but you need to be aware of them and can discuss them with your doctor at any time.

The risks are:

  • Complications relating to the anaesthetic
  • Infection
  • Stiffness and or pain around the shoulder
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels around the shoulder
  • Need to re-do the surgery