At Spire Clare Park Hospital in Farnham, Surrey, we have a choice of orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in shoulder problems and treatments. With the support of our physiotherapy team, you can be assured of a high standard of treatment within a clean and safe environment.
Ask your GP for a referral to Spire Clare Park Hospital. Alternatively, contact the Patient Information Team for more information on 01252 895 490, email@example.com or complete the enquiry form on the right-hand side of this page.
About subacromial decompression
This operation is performed for subacromial impingement, a condition that causes pain in the shoulder. In most instances, the pain is related to movement of the shoulder, particularly when the hand is raised above shoulder height.
Subacromial impingement is frequently related to sport, especially swimming and racquet sports, but also domestic tasks such as ironing and gardening. Pain caused by subacromial impingement commonly affects routine daily tasks such sleeping and dressing.
The pain is related to four tendons that move the shoulder. These tendons are collectively called the rotator cuff. They are attached to the shoulder blade at one end and to the top of the humerus (upper arm) at the other. The tendons pass through a narrow space just before attaching to the top of the humerus and it is this gap that can become narrowed over time due to a bony spike developing or a thickened ligament. This creates increased pressure on the rotator cuff tendons causing the pain of subacromial impingement.
The initial treatment is usually rest, avoiding any activities that exacerbate the pain and the use of simple painkillers and physiotherapy. If the pain persists a steroid injection may then be recommended.
Prior to proceeding to surgery it is usual to perform X-rays or an MRI scan to ascertain the degree of damage.
The operation is carried out under a general anaesthetic and usually involves one night in hospital. The procedure is performed using two small incisions through which an arthroscope (telescope) and small instruments can be passed. These instruments are used to remove bony spikes, release tightened ligaments and increase the space through which the rotator cuff tendons pass.
The small wounds are closed with stitches or steristrips and your arm will be placed in a sling.
What happens after surgery?
Following surgery, exercises are started immediately to regain function in the arm. Physiotherapy is started after two to three weeks.
It will take between three weeks to three months for the shoulder pain to settle and function can continue to improve for six months after surgery.
You will need two weeks off work after surgery and longer if you have a manual or physical job. You should be able to drive after two weeks and gradually return to sport as comfort permits. About 80% of people who undergo a subacromial decompression find their pain and movement greatly improved by the surgery.