Subacromial Decompression

What is Subacromial Decompression?


Subacromial decompression is one of the most common surgeries that is performed to treat shoulder impingement.

This surgery is also known as acromioplasty.

In severe impingement conditions, subacromial surgery is required where it is necessary to eliminate the pressure and create more space for the rotator cuff.

What is Shoulder impingement?


Shoulder impingement is a condition in which pain is caused due to pressure on the rotator cuff from the shoulder roof or acromion. 

Pain is felt when you raise your arm, as there is a rubbing on the rotator cuff because of a bone spur.

A group of muscles and tendons that supports and stabilizes the shoulder is called the Rotator cuff.  It allows the lifting and rotating shoulder movements.

During impingement, if the arm is lifted, a ligament or bone may rub against the rotator cuff which causes discomfort or pain in the shoulder. 

It also limits your arm movements. Generally, this condition worsens over time.

In the initial stage, mild pain is felt in the shoulder area radiating from the front to the side of the arm. Swelling, pain, and tenderness increases in the frontal area of the shoulder, if the arm is lifted.

If it's not treated on time or left untreated, then the arm becomes stiff. In some cases, there may be limited to zero movements.

Common precautions or treatments in the initial stages include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, resting of arm, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections.

 If the patient doesn't get any results from these conservative measures then surgery is recommended. 

What is Pre-treatment for Subacromial Decompression?


Your surgeon will have a detailed discussion about pre and post-surgery results, risks associated, and precautions that must be taken care of.

Communicate any ongoing medications, allergic reactions, and your medical history beforehand.

Smoking must be avoided before surgery as it increases the risk of wound or chest infection. Besides, it delays recovery time.

As general anesthesia is given you will have to follow some fasting instructions.

What is Treatment for Subacromial Decompression?


This procedure is required to remove the bursa, a small inflamed sac, and the tissue affected by impingement.

In some cases, it is necessary to remove the front edge of the shoulder blade as well. General anesthesia is given before proceeding with the treatment.

This surgery is carried out by a keyhole surgery known as arthroscopy. Two or three minor incisions approximately 5 mm in size are made throughout the shoulder. 

Then a tiny camera or an arthroscope is inserted with the help of one of the incisions to find out the affected area. Then required surgical instruments are inserted through other incisions to carry out the subacromial decompression.

In the final stage, surgical instruments are removed by the surgeon, and incisions are closed with stitches.

Wearing a brace is recommended after the surgery to protect and immobilize your shoulder.

What is Post-treatment care for Subacromial Decompression?


  • Have a proper rest until the effects of the given anesthesia have completely passed.

  • Generally, it is a one-day procedure and if you feel ready after surgery you can go home the same day.

  • Avoid driving, alcohol drinking, machine operating after the surgery.

  • To reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness, applying cold compressors such as ice bags are recommended. Make sure not to apply direct ice to your bare shoulder as it will damage your skin.

What are Benefits of Subacromial Decompression?


  • Less damage of muscles 

  • Minimal loss of blood

  • Faster recovery when compared to traditional surgery 

  • Recovery from subacromial decompression

Ideally, it takes 1-2 months for the recovery after subacromial decompression surgery.

To prevent the risk of shoulder stiffness, the sling is discontinued after a few days of the surgery.

After this, a rehabilitation procedure is given which aims to increase the strength and motion of the treated shoulder. 

Physiotherapist consultation is recommended after the surgery. The exercises suggested by physiotherapists improve mobility and movements.

Shoulder function is improved within a few months but in some cases, complete recovery can take even a year.

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