The treatment of dislocations of the acromioclavicular joint: A survey of the past decade (2022)

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  • Cited by (29)
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The American Journal of Surgery

Volume 98, Issue 3,

September 1959

, Pages 423-431

Author links open overlay panelMarshall R.UristM.D.(Associate Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Chairman)ab1

(Video) Management of AC Joint Dislocations

Abstract

Dislocation of the acromioclavicular joint, being associated with relatively little disability, should be treated first by conservative methods employing a degree of immobilization that is in proportion to the degree of damage to the ligaments. Splints for this injury differ from other splints in that they perform a dual function: reduction and immobilization. The ideal splint for the disjointed acromioclavicular area has not yet been designed; it should depress the clavicle at the same time that it elevates the acromion process and the scapula. Although arduous to make and inconvenient for the patient, several acromioclavicular splints have been proved to be of value and worthy of wide use. To begin treatment with an extensive surgical dissection of the joint, to implant internal fixation, to encase the patient in a large cast to protect the internal fixation, to observe the inevitable breaking of fascial transplants, wires, or screws, and then to perform another operation to remove the metal, to leave a large scar on the shoulder, all for a condition that is largely a cosmetic problem is ovbiously irrational treatment. It is tantamount to shooting a dove with an elephant hunter's rifle, and it is the antithesis of sound practice of surgery. I have observed fifty-nine cases in men (none in women) during the fifteen-year period from 1943 to 1958, and have found surgical treatment necessary only in complicated or neglected cases. For such patients, usually individuals complaining of “an annoying deformity” or pain from the clavicle habitually popping in and out of the joint, it is advisable to excise the outer end of the clavicle and repair the origins of the deltoid and trapezius muscles so as to hold the end of the clavicle down in its proper anatomical compartment.

References (37)

  • A. DeSousa et al.Calcification of the coracoclavicular ligaments after acromioclavicular dislocation

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

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  • J.S. BatchelorSplint for fractured clavicle and acromioclavicular dislocation

    Lancet

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  • E.A. Nicoll

    Miners and mannequins

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

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  • M.R. Urist

    Complete dislocations of the acromioclavicular joint

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

    (1946)

  • J.S. Horn

    The traumatic anatomy and treatment of acute acromioclavicular dislocation

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    (1954)

  • M.E. Gibbens

    An appliance for conservative treatment of acromioclavicular dislocation

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

    (1946)

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    Cast treatment of acromioclavicular dislocation

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

    (1948)

  • J.H. Varney et al.

    Treatment of acromioclavicular dislocation by means of a harness

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

    (1952)

  • G. Brandt

    Die behandlung der Verrenkung im acromiolen schlüsselbeingelenk

    Klin. med.

    (1956)

  • H. Jud

    Zur konservativen Behandlung der luxatio claviculae supraacromialis

    Arch. orthop. u. Unfall-Chir.

    (1955)

  • A. Thorndike et al.

    Injuries to the acromioclavicular joint. A plea for conservative treatment

    Am. J. Surg.

    (1942)

  • L.C. Abbott et al.

    Surgical approaches to the shoulder joint

    (Video) The Evolution of AC Joint Injury Treatment

    J. Bone & Joint Surg.

    (1949)

  • O.M. Alexander

    Acromioclavicular joint

    Radiography

    (1949)

  • E. Gardner et al.

    Prenatal development of human shoulder and acromioclavicular joints

    Am. J. Anat.

    (1953)

  • E.A. Codman

    Rupture of the Supraspinatus Tendon and Other Lesions

    (1934)

  • M.R. Adam

    Un point de technique touchant les syndesmopexies coracoclaviculaires

    Rev. d'orthop.

    (1945)

  • G. Hammond et al.

    Acute acromioclavicular dislocation

    Guthrie Clin. Bull.

    (1946)

  • C. Pais

    Du traitment de la luxation acromioclaviculaire (brochage temporaire)

    Rev. d'orthop.

    (1947)

  • Cited by (29)

    • Acromioclavicular Joint Problems in Athletes and New Methods of Management

      2008, Clinics in Sports Medicine

      The acromioclavicular (AC) complex consists of bony and ligamentous structures that stabilize the upper extremity through the scapula to the axial skeleton. The AC joint pathology in the athlete is generally caused by 1of 3 processes: trauma (fracture, AC joint separation, or dislocation); AC joint arthrosis (posttraumatic or idiopathic); or distal clavicle osteolysis. This article presents systematically the relevant anatomy, classification, evaluation, and treatment of these disorders. Management of AC joint problems is dictated by the severity and chronicity of the injury, and the patient's needs and expectations.

    • Coracoclavicular ligament reconstruction using a semitendinosus graft for failed acromioclavicular separation surgery

      2005, Arthroscopy - Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery

      Although acromioclavicular joint separations are fairly common, the occurrence of high-grade acromioclavicular separations that require surgery is low. Various modifications of the Weaver-Dunn procedure have been popular and fairly successful methods to treat severe acromioclavicular separations, despite the fact that reconstructions have been done a number of ways. We report on the results of a technique for salvaging failed modified Weaver-Dunn reconstructions using a semitendinosus graft through bone tunnels in the distal clavicle and coracoid to reconstruct the coracoclavicular ligament.

    • Fractures and dislocations of the clavicle

      1989, Current Orthopaedics

    • Operative treatment of chronic acromioclavicular dislocation

      1987, Injury

      (Video) Acromioclavicular joint dislocation, classification and treatment

      Six patients (median age 35 years) were reviewed at an average of 24 months after operation for chronic acromioclavicular dislocation. The operation consisted of resection of the lateral part of the clavicle and transference of the coracoacromial ligaments as a substitute for the coraco-clavicular ligament. The ligament was secured by an AO screw for 6 weeks. In five patients the reasons for operation were pain, when working and sleeping, and, in one patient, pressure on the skin. Three of the patients complained of weakness. At follow-up the results were excellent in four patients and good in two. Three patients had mild pain when lying on the shoulder and three had complaints where the flake of bone attached to the transferred ligament was inserted into the clavicle. We now recommend a modification of the method, omitting the flake of bone.

    • Injuries to the acromioclavicular joint

      1973, Injury

      Two hundred and twenty-five patients with injuries to the acromioclavicular joint were reviewed. The natural history of this type of injury is outlined. A follow-up of 50 patients who were first treated at least 10 years ago is presented, and the long-term results of those analysed. Criteria for different methods of treatment are discussed.

    View all citing articles on Scopus

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      It is shown that damage shifts the yielding point down. Equation of this shift is obtained and used to predict the passive elastic energy spent on damage under state of constant maximum stress amplitude. μ-quant of fatigue reflects the dislocation’s pressure vs the resistance of lattice. It is a material parameter in macro, found specific for any metal. The value of μ-quant were estimated for steel, aluminium, titanium and copper, demonstrating its wide range and its central place in the life time of soft metals.

      Two distinct constitutive equations of the life numbers of pulses are obtained for constant stress and for constant strain amplitude resp., as a function of the mu-quant, stressing and of the pulse factors, without free parameters. The equations show that fatigue life under constant strain amplitude is prolonged vs constant amplitude stress state, against lower residual strength. An equation linking the mu-quant with temperature is proposed, The way to express the nonlinearity of the μ-quant vs stressing is shown. The differential of the equation of fatigue process is given. Method of evaluation the remaining life-time of equipment under fatigue is presented. Paradox of fatigue at low stressing is solved as a tunneling effect, cased by micro plasticity. It explains the transformation of soft metal into brittle solid under low consumption of energy.

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    1

    From the Department of Surgery, Division of Orthopaedics, University of California and Wadsworth Hospital, United States Veterans Administration Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.

    (Video) OrthoFracs Acromioclavicular Joint Pathologies by Andy Ho

    View full text

    Copyright © 1959 Published by Elsevier Inc.

    FAQs

    How is acromioclavicular joint dislocation treated? ›

    Treatment of these injuries typically consists of pain medication, cryotherapy and the use of a sling for comfort for one to two weeks with the encouragement of early range of motion activities and weaning of the sling as pain permits.

    What is the usual treatment for symptomatic old acromioclavicular dislocation? ›

    Anti-inflammatory medication and intra-articular steroid injections work well for degenerative changes in the acromioclavicular joint. In injuries that have failed conservative therapy, excision of the distal clavicle can be performed with a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure.

    Can you dislocate your acromioclavicular joint? ›

    Acute dislocation of the acromioclavicular joint is a common injury in athletes and characterized by painful impairment of shoulder function and elevation (“pseudo-elevation“) of the lateral clavicle. Persistent AC joint instabilities can result in persistent pain and functional impairment of the shoulder girdle.

    What prevents dislocation of acromioclavicular joint? ›

    The Coracoclavicular ligaments run from the coracoid process to the underside of the clavicle, near the AC Joint. These ligaments contribute to horizontal stability, making them crucial for preventing superior dislocation of the AC Joint.

    Is AC joint surgery worth it? ›

    What are the results of AC joint surgery? Most patients get excellent pain relief with this operation, and nearly 95 percent return to their preinjury level of activity and sports. There are few complications and most patients are very satisfied with the result.

    Can an AC joint heal without surgery? ›

    Most people do well without surgery. The severe injury (Grade 3) can be treated either nonoperatively or operatively. Non-operative treatment involves immobilisation in a sling for two to three weeks followed by a course of physiotherapy.

    How do you fix acromioclavicular joint separation? ›

    Treatment is typically an arm sling, bed rest, ice and heat therapy, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Most people recover full motion of the shoulder and arm within 6 to 8 weeks, often with the assistance of physiotherapy.

    How do you strengthen the acromioclavicular joint? ›

    Best AC Joint Exercises
    1. Neck rotation.
    2. Shoulder rolls.
    3. Neck stretches.
    4. Shoulder blade squeeze.
    5. Laying down shoulder flexion.
    6. Standing shoulder extension.
    7. Goalpost stretch.

    When does an AC joint separation require surgery? ›

    Surgery may be necessary for AC separations that do not respond well to non-operative treatment. If, after 2 to 3 months, pain continues in the AC joint with overhead activity or in contact sports, surgery may be necessary.

    Will my AC joint ever heal? ›

    Most patients with AC joint injuries will start to feel better within a few days or a week of the injury—but it can take at least six weeks for the AC ligaments to fully heal.

    How long does AC joint surgery take to heal? ›

    The recovery time varies from patient to patient, but full recovery typically occurs within 6-12 weeks. A return to contact sports may require more recovery time to reduce the risk of re-injury. Some degree of protrusion at the AC joint often remains but does not require surgery.

    Do AC ligaments grow back? ›

    Or the ligaments that support your AC joint may be repaired. A ligament from another part of your body may be used to repair it. Your end result may also depend on the severity of your injury. Most people will get back all or almost all normal arm and shoulder function, but a slight deformity may remain.

    How do you treat acromioclavicular joint pain? ›

    Initial treatment may include rest, ice, pain medication, and three to seven days of shoulder immobilization in a sling. Range-of-motion exercises and stretching exercises can be started when tolerable. (See 'Range-of-motion exercises' above.)

    Does a Grade 3 AC joint separation need surgery? ›

    Surgery is the clear choice for highly displaced AC joint separations (Grade 4, 5, and 6), and also for Grade 3 AC separations that demonstrate significant horizontal instability. Deciding on a surgeon is critical to achieving a complication-free and pain-free result.

    What are the signs and symptoms of an acromioclavicular joint injury? ›

    Symptoms of an AC joint injury
    • Shoulder or arm pain.
    • A visible bump, bruise, or swelling on your shoulder.
    • Limited shoulder mobility.
    • Weakness in your shoulder or arm.
    • Pain when lying on the affected side.
    • A popping sound when you move your shoulder.

    How much does AC joint surgery cost? ›

    The literature reports costs for arthroscopic subacromial decompressions to be at $7246 per patient [27] and for arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs to be at $8985 per patient [28]. Costs for arthroscopic suture button AC joint reconstructions would likely be within the same price range [27].

    Is AC joint Same as rotator cuff? ›

    The rotator cuff covers the head of the upper arm bone and attaches it to the shoulder blade. The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is formed where a portion of the scapula (acromion) and the clavicle meet and are held together by tough tissues (ligaments) that act like tethers to keep the bones in place.

    Is shoulder separation worse than dislocation? ›

    While a dislocated shoulder typically produces intense or severe pain, a separated shoulder is a little milder — but still uncomfortable. The most common signs and symptoms of a separated shoulder include: Shoulder pain.

    How long do I have to wear a sling after shoulder dislocation? ›

    Recovery time

    You can stop wearing the sling after a few days, but it takes about 12 to 16 weeks to completely recover from a dislocated shoulder. You'll usually be able to resume most activities within 2 weeks, but should avoid heavy lifting and sports involving shoulder movements for between 6 weeks and 3 months.

    Can I do pull ups with AC joint injury? ›

    Beware Pressing and Pulling

    Reaching your arms out to the sides or out in front more than 90 degrees increases pressure in the AC joint. In fact, this movement is restricted for six weeks for people who undergo surgery to fix an injured AC joint, according to Twin Cities Orthopedics.

    How long should you wear a sling after shoulder separation? ›

    Your physician will typically immobilize your shoulder in a removable sling. You typically wear the sling until your ligaments heal, which varies based on ligament damage and your ability to regenerate healthy tissue. In general, slings are worn for up to two weeks until pain is gone when you move your shoulder.

    How do you permanently fix a dislocated shoulder? ›

    Treatment
    1. Closed reduction. In this procedure, some gentle maneuvers might help move the shoulder bones back into position. ...
    2. Surgery. ...
    3. Immobilization. ...
    4. Medication. ...
    5. Rehabilitation.
    23 Aug 2022

    Do you need surgery for a separated shoulder? ›

    Shoulder separations don't usually require surgery, but a severe shoulder separation may require surgery to repair the ligaments. In most cases, rest, ice, and pain medicine are enough to heal the injury. Full function can be regained in a matter of weeks.

    What do they do for AC joint surgery? ›

    AC joint reconstruction for recurrent shoulder separations involves reconstruction using a tendon graft (called an allograft) with mechanical fixation to further secure the new tissue in the anatomical location of the torn ligaments.

    Can you lift weights with AC joint pain? ›

    You'll have to dramatically reduce the load through the joint to allow the ligaments and joint to settle down. This usually means no lifting above shoulder height for anything between 4 to 6 weeks.

    What muscles stabilize AC joint? ›

    The AC joint is stabilized by the acromioclavicular (AC) ligaments, the coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments, joint capsule, and deltoid and trapezius muscles.

    How do you determine acromioclavicular joint instability? ›

    The diagnosis of AC joint instability can be based on historical data, physical examination and imaging studies. The cross body adduction stress test has the greatest sensitivity, followed by the AC resisted extension test and the O'Brien test. Proper radiographic evaluation of the AC joint is necessary.

    How long do you wear a sling after AC joint surgery? ›

    You will need to wear your sling for four weeks after keyhole surgery, but must wear the sling for 6 weeks after open repair (to allow your deltoid muscle to heal) . You may take down any bulky padded dressings on day 3 after surgery, but keep the waterproof dressings on for 12 days.

    What does AC joint separation feel like? ›

    Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Separation Symptoms

    Pain at the top of the shoulder, especially when moving the arm overhead, or while sleeping on the injured shoulder. The appearance of a bump on top of the shoulder blade. Weakness or instability in the arm or shoulder. Limited mobility.

    Can a separated shoulder hurt years later? ›

    AC joint arthrosis may also develop following an injury to the joint, such as an AC joint separation. This injury is fairly common. A separation usually results from falling on the shoulder. The shoulder does heal, but many years later degeneration causes the AC joint to become painful.

    Can your AC joint cause neck pain? ›

    Symptoms. AC joint inflammation causes pain on the top of the shoulder, at the point where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the highest point of the shoulder blade (acromion). Pain may radiate to the lower part of the side of the neck or ear.

    Can you lift weights after AC joint surgery? ›

    Heavy weight lifting and overhead athletic moves should resume 6 months following your operation or after being cleared by an orthopaedic specialist.

    How long is hospital stay after shoulder surgery? ›

    Typically, you will stay in the hospital for two to three days, but this depends on each individual and how quickly he or she progresses. After surgery, you may feel some pain that will be managed with medication to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

    Do you get a catheter during shoulder surgery? ›

    We generally will use a peripheral nerve block with a catheter placed for most upper extremity and shoulder surgeries. We also typically use a general anesthetic after the block it placed in order to protect your breathing and your airway during Page 7 surgery.

    Is AC joint separation permanent? ›

    In severe cases, both the acromioclavicular ligaments as well as the coracoclavicular ligaments are ruptured, and there is an immediate deformity that occurs. Without surgery this deformity remains permanent as the entire weight of the arm continues to pull the acromial side of the injury downward.

    What are the long term effects of a separated shoulder? ›

    With grade 1 and uncomplicated grade 3 separations, about 10% of people experience some long-term problems. Since there is more rubbing between the collarbone and shoulder blade with grade 2 separations, as many as 25% of people experience long-term problems such as pain or arthritis.

    What causes acromioclavicular joint arthritis? ›

    The principal cause of AC joint arthrosis is wear and tear due to use. As a person uses his/her arm and shoulder, stress is placed on the joint. This stress produces wear and tear on the cartilage, the cartilage becomes worn over time, and eventually arthritis of the joint may occur.

    Does a separated shoulder ever heal? ›

    Most people recover from a shoulder separation without surgery, within 2 to 12 weeks. You will be treated with ice, medicines, a sling, and then exercises as you continue to heal. Your recovery may be slower if you have: Arthritis in your shoulder joint.

    Can a chiropractor help separated shoulder? ›

    Our College Park Chiropractors often treat separated shoulders using similar techniques as dislocated shoulders, including heat therapy, massage therapy, and immobilization.

    Does a Grade 5 AC separation require surgery? ›

    Grade 4, 5, and 6 separations are severe injuries with high degree of displacement of the clavicle with respect to the acromion and usually require surgery.

    What is the fastest way to heal an AC joint? ›

    Treatment for AC joint sprain
    1. Rest. This allows your shoulder to heal. ...
    2. Sling. This protects the shoulder and holds the joint in a good position for healing.
    3. Cold packs. These help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
    4. Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines. ...
    5. Arm and shoulder exercises.

    What causes AC joint dislocation? ›

    What is AC Joint Dislocation? Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Dislocation is usually caused by a direct fall onto the point of the shoulder. The shoulder blade (scapula) is forced downwards, and the collarbone (clavicle) pops up. It is a particularly common injury in contact sports and cycling.

    Are AC joint injuries serious? ›

    Mild injuries are not associated with any significant morbidity, but severe injuries can lead to significant loss of strength and function of the shoulder. Acromioclavicular injuries may be associated with a fractured clavicle, impingement syndromes, and more rarely neurovascular insults.

    Do AC ligaments grow back? ›

    Or the ligaments that support your AC joint may be repaired. A ligament from another part of your body may be used to repair it. Your end result may also depend on the severity of your injury. Most people will get back all or almost all normal arm and shoulder function, but a slight deformity may remain.

    How do you know if you tore your acromioclavicular? ›

    Symptoms of an AC joint injury

    Shoulder or arm pain. A visible bump, bruise, or swelling on your shoulder. Limited shoulder mobility. Weakness in your shoulder or arm.

    What are the signs and symptoms of an acromioclavicular joint injury? ›

    AC joint injury symptoms

    Limited motion in the shoulder. Swelling. Bruising. Tenderness at the top of the shoulder.

    Is AC joint Same as rotator cuff? ›

    The rotator cuff covers the head of the upper arm bone and attaches it to the shoulder blade. The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is formed where a portion of the scapula (acromion) and the clavicle meet and are held together by tough tissues (ligaments) that act like tethers to keep the bones in place.

    How much does AC joint surgery cost? ›

    The literature reports costs for arthroscopic subacromial decompressions to be at $7246 per patient [27] and for arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs to be at $8985 per patient [28]. Costs for arthroscopic suture button AC joint reconstructions would likely be within the same price range [27].

    Can I do pull ups with AC joint injury? ›

    Beware Pressing and Pulling

    Reaching your arms out to the sides or out in front more than 90 degrees increases pressure in the AC joint. In fact, this movement is restricted for six weeks for people who undergo surgery to fix an injured AC joint, according to Twin Cities Orthopedics.

    How long is recovery from AC joint surgery? ›

    Time, rest and gradual rehabilitation typically result in a shoulder free of pain and functional limitations. The recovery time varies from patient to patient, but full recovery typically occurs within 6-12 weeks.

    What does an AC joint dislocation feel like? ›

    Most people with AC joint separation will experience pain at the top of the shoulder. This pain may be exacerbated when you move your arm overhead or sleep on the injured shoulder. You may also experience weakness or instability in the affected shoulder or arm as well as limited mobility.

    Can a separated shoulder hurt years later? ›

    AC joint arthrosis may also develop following an injury to the joint, such as an AC joint separation. This injury is fairly common. A separation usually results from falling on the shoulder. The shoulder does heal, but many years later degeneration causes the AC joint to become painful.

    How do you strengthen an AC joint injury? ›

    AC joint recovery exercises may include:
    1. Neck rotation.
    2. Shoulder rolls.
    3. Neck stretches.
    4. Shoulder blade squeeze.
    5. Laying down shoulder flexion.
    6. Standing shoulder extension.
    7. Goalpost stretch.

    How do you treat acromioclavicular joint pain? ›

    Nonsurgical Treatments for Acromioclavicular Osteoarthritis
    1. Activity modification. Certain activities and exercise will aggravate the acromioclavicular joint. ...
    2. Warm or cold compress. ...
    3. Physical therapy. ...
    4. Shoulder surgery may address more than one condition.

    What causes AC joint dislocation? ›

    What is AC Joint Dislocation? Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Dislocation is usually caused by a direct fall onto the point of the shoulder. The shoulder blade (scapula) is forced downwards, and the collarbone (clavicle) pops up. It is a particularly common injury in contact sports and cycling.

    Are AC joint injuries serious? ›

    Mild injuries are not associated with any significant morbidity, but severe injuries can lead to significant loss of strength and function of the shoulder. Acromioclavicular injuries may be associated with a fractured clavicle, impingement syndromes, and more rarely neurovascular insults.

    Is shoulder separation worse than dislocation? ›

    While a dislocated shoulder typically produces intense or severe pain, a separated shoulder is a little milder — but still uncomfortable. The most common signs and symptoms of a separated shoulder include: Shoulder pain.

    Which ligament is most commonly damaged with a separated shoulder? ›

    Cause
    • A mild shoulder separation involves a sprain of the AC ligaments that does not move the collarbone and looks normal on X-rays.
    • A more serious injury tears the AC ligaments and sprains or slightly tears the coracoclavicular (CC) ligament, putting the collarbone out of alignment to some extent with a smaller bump.

    What are the long term effects of a separated shoulder? ›

    With grade 1 and uncomplicated grade 3 separations, about 10% of people experience some long-term problems. Since there is more rubbing between the collarbone and shoulder blade with grade 2 separations, as many as 25% of people experience long-term problems such as pain or arthritis.

    Videos

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    3. MANAGEMENT OF ACROMIO-CLAVICULAR JOINT DISLOCATIONS - Emirates Orthopaedic Society
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    4. AC Joint Repair with Arthrex® Dog Bone™ Button
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    5. Current concepts for the management of chronic AC joint instability - Frank Martetschläger
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