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Working Hard to Compare the Results of Acromioplasty

Authors: Gregory P. Nicholson

References: The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. April 2003. Vol. 85-A. No. 4. Pp. 682-689.

Abstract
Subacromial impingement syndrome is a common disorder of the shoulder. In this condition, the acromion (the tip of the shoulder blade) pinches the soft tissues underneath it. Arthroscopic surgery is often done to remove the end of the acromion and release the pressure that is causing the pain. This procedure is called arthroscopic acromioplasty.

This surgery is widely used with good success. It is often done in patients whose impingement was caused by their work and who are getting Worker's Compensation benefits. Some studies have shown that Workers' Compensation patients are less likely to have good results or return to work after surgery than patients who don't get Workers' Compensation. These authors looked at patients who had the surgery to see if there was any difference in outcomes between the two groups.

The author looked at patients who had the same surgery done by the same doctor. The patients also had similar rehabilitation programs. The Worker's Compensation group and the other patients were compared for pain levels and function (both before and after surgery), time taken to return to work, and physical demands of their jobs.

The results showed that both groups had successful outcomes from the surgery. The only significant difference was that the Workers' Compensation group took an average of more than four weeks longer to get back to work. However, most of the Workers' Compensation group had higher physical demands at their jobs. The author determined that the higher physical demands accounted for the longer times in returning to work.

The author concludes that arthroscopic acromioplasty generally has a good outcome. His study suggests that there shouldn't be a great deal of concern about doing the surgery for Worker's Compensation patients. He also notes that this research could help guide doctors in establishing realistic time frames about when patients can return to work.

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