What is Distal Clavicle Excision?

Distal clavicle excision is a kind of surgery used to relieve pain in the shoulder, specifically the AC joint. The AC joint is where the collarbone (or clavicle) meets the shoulder blade. If this joint is injured or becomes affected by arthritis, the ends of the bones can grind against each other, causing pain and stiffness. Distal clavicle excision removes a small piece of bone at the outer edge of the clavicle, creating space between the two bones and allowing the joint to move freely.

Non-surgical treatments for AC joint pain, such as NSAIDs or injectible steroids, are usually tried first. If those treatments aren't effective, distal clavicle excision may be performed. After an incision is made, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are moved out of the way so they are not affected by the surgery. This ensures the patient will be able to move normally after healing. The surgeon then removes a small piece of bone, less than half an inch long, from the end of the clavicle. The collarbone stays in place within the body and works just like before, but the shortened end gives the shoulder room to move without pain.

After the procedure, your arm may be in a sling for several weeks. You may be asked not to drive for a while, and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the shoulder is usually a part of treatment. Full recovery may take as long as two months.