AC Joint Separation Grading

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An Overview on AC Joint Separation Grading

A separation of the collarbone from the shoulder blade is medically classified as an acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation. Typically sustained from a hard fall or direct hit to the AC joint, an AC joint separation is a common injury in the active population. When an injury occurs, an AC joint grading system helps physicians properly diagnosis the extent of injury. Shoulder specialist located in the Austin, Texas area, Dr. Jeff Padalecki specializes in treating and diagnosing joint injuries with the assistance of the AC joint separation grading scale and an AC joint separation grading x-ray and MRI scan.

AC Joint Separation Grading Scale

Soft tissues may get torn leading to a varying amount of damage during an injury to the AC joint. An AC joint separation is graded by the extent of damage sustained to the ligaments. An AC joint separation grading scale includes:

  • A grade 1 AC joint separation is a mild shoulder separation where the AC ligament is partially torn or stretched.
  • A grade 2 AC joint separation is a partial separation of the AC joint. The AC ligament is completely torn but the coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments are still intact.
  • A grade 3 AC joint separation is a complete separation of the joint where the AC ligament and CC ligaments are completely torn, as well as the joint capsule.
  • Grades 4, 5 and 6 AC separations are extremely rare.

AC joint separation symptoms vary based on the extent of injury. A grade 1 AC joint separation commonly causes minor pain, bruising and mild swelling. A grade 2 AC joint separation commonly causes moderate to severe pain, swelling and a small bump may be present on the top of the shoulder. A grade 3 AC joint separation injury commonly causes severe pain, swelling, instability and visible deformity.

Have you sustained an AC joint injury?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Padalecki:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Padalecki.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Padalecki.

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AC Joint Separation Grading MRI and AC Joint Separation Grading X-Ray

Dr. Padalecki will perform a thorough medical review and physical examination in order to diagnose an AC joint injury and determine injury level based on the AC joint grading system. During the exam, he commonly moves and feels the injured joint to get a better understanding of injury and identify specific areas of pain and weakness. Dr. Padalecki will also perform an AC joint separation grading x-ray and MRI to help determine injury grade and treatment options.

The AC joint grading system helps Dr. Padalecki determine the appropriate treatment plan. Grades 1-3 are typically treated with non-operative measures such as rest, ice, medication and arm immobilization in a sling.

In order to fully recover and have full joint function, some patients with a more severe injury will require a surgical treatment designed to stabilize the AC joint. The surgical technique most commonly performed by Dr. Padalecki involves reconstruction of the CC ligaments and the removal of the shoulder end of the clavicle.

For more resources on the AC joint separation grading scale, or to determine your grade of injury with the assistance of an AC joint separation grading x-ray and MRI, please contact Dr. Jeff Padalecki, orthopedic shoulder specialist in the greater Austin, Texas area.

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