To evaluate the significance of untreated primary acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) osteoarthritis, encountered during arthroscopic rotator cuff repair (RCR), as a cause of persistent symptomatology and need for revision surgery.
In a cohort of 811 consecutive patients older than 55 years who underwent RCR, the effect of primary ACJ osteoarthritis presence was prospectively examined. A total of 497 patients with mild/moderate and severe ACJ osteoarthritis based on preoperative MRI evaluation were allocated to Group A (n = 185, symptomatic ACJ) and Group B (n = 312, asymptomatic ACJ). Distal clavicle excision was not performed regardless of the presence of pain. The minimum follow-up was 28 months (28–46). The visual analogue scale (VAS) pain scores were assessed for ACJ pain on palpation, the cross body adduction test, the Constant-Murley, and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES).
The overall loss to follow-up rate was 3.82% (19 patients: 11 in Group A and eight in Group B). The mean ASES score at the latest follow-up was 91.16 ± 9.3 and 92.37 ± 10.44 in Groups A and B, respectively, and the mean Constant-Murley score was 96.36 ± 5.7 and 95.76 ± 4.6 in Groups A and B, respectively. There was no statistical significance between regarding both scores. Localised ACJ pain on palpation and pain on cross body adduction were diminished in both the symptomatic and asymptomatic group. There were five cases (1%: two in Group A and three in Group B) with persistent ACJ pain who had failed the conservative treatment, and ACJ excision was necessary to alleviate the symptoms. All revision operations were uncomplicated with symptom resolution.
Untreated ACJ osteoarthritis, symptomatic or not, encountered during arthroscopic RCR is associated with a low percentage of failure. Routine distal clavicle excision is not absolutely necessary, even in patients with symptomatic ACJ osteoarthritis.