What is acromioplasty?

Acromioplasty, also known as shoulder decompression surgery is a common treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome, especially if non-surgical treatment options don't work for you. In this surgery, your doctor removes bone tissue to make more room for your muscles to relax. It relieves pressure and gives your tendons and muscles more room to move. The goal is to help you get your full range of motion back.

Shoulder impingement syndrome causes pain and limits how much you can move your shoulder. It happens when the bone at the top of your shoulder rubs against the thick tissues inside your shoulder joint. If you have this condition, you're unable to raise your arms above your head. You may have trouble reaching around your back or making other similar movements without feeling pain.

What to expect from acromioplasty

Arthroscopic surgery is the most common method for performing decompression surgery. Your doctor makes two or three small cuts in your shoulder to reach the joint. Using a tiny camera, your doctor can see inside your shoulder on a television screen rather than opening your shoulder up. They'll explore the area and look for the bones and other tissues that affect your shoulder's movement.

Your doctor removes a small part of the acromion. This is the bone at the top of your ball-and-socket joint. They'll also remove bone spurs that have formed in the joint. Bone spurs are sharp growths that can cause pain. If you've had a rotator cuff tear or other soft tissue damage, your doctor may repair those at the same time.

During recovery, you'll keep your arm in a sling for several weeks. You'll also do physical therapy. This helps your shoulder heal the way it should. You may see a lot of improvement in pain and function in two to four months. Complete recovery can take up to a year, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Common conditions requiring acromioplasty

Decompression surgery is helpful for treating shoulder impingement syndrome. Other conditions that people often have with this condition — or that doctors can treat with this operation — are:

  • Bursitis
  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Rotator cuff injuries

Find an orthopedic surgeon nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you