A separated shoulder is not the same as a dislocation. A separation is an injury involving the clavicle (collarbone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). Ligaments and capsule are responsible for connecting the shoulder blade (scapula) to the collarbone (clavicle). A shoulder separation is graded based on the location and amount of displacement of the clavicle as well as the extent of injury to these stabilizing structures.
The vast majority of shoulder separations should be treated without surgery resulting in excellent outcomes. For a few types of shoulder separations, however, surgical treatment may be beneficial.
Dozens of procedures for the treatment of shoulder separation have been proposed. Click here to watch a video about separated shoulder.
Potential complications with these procedures include:
- Loss of reduction of the clavicle (does not stay in proper position)
- Clavicle fracture
- Painful scar
- Deltoid/Trapezius muscle detachment
In an effort to minimize these risks several centers have reported excellent results with arthroscopic reconstruction for these injuries. Arthroscopic reconstruction can be performed with either a biologic graft to reconstruct the torn ligaments or permanent suture to hold the clavicle in a reduced position allowing the torn ligaments to heal. For those patients requiring surgical treatment for their separated shoulder, we have been routinely performing arthroscopic reconstruction since 2001 with excellent results.