Subacromial decompression is a surgical intervention that is performed to reduce pain and increase the range of motion in the shoulder joint due to the compression of the tendons or bursa in the subacromial space. This is a condition commonly known as shoulder impingement syndrome and it can lead to a lot of pain and limited movements in the shoulder.


Subacromial decompression is typically indicated for patients who:Subacromial decompression is typically indicated for patients who:

·        Have a history of chronic shoulder pain that has not been relieved by other treatments including physiotherapy, medications or steroid injections.

·        Present with findings of rotator cuff impingement on clinical assessment and investigations such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Ultrasonography.

·        Complain of pain that interferes with their ability to perform daily activities and enjoy their lives.


The procedure is usually performed arthroscopically, which is minimally invasive and involves the following steps:The procedure is usually performed arthroscopically, which is minimally invasive and involves the following steps:

1.     Anesthesia: General or regional anesthesia is given.

2.     Arthroscopic Access: The procedure involves making small cuts on the shoulder and inserting a tiny camera called an arthroscope into the subacromial space.

3.     Debridement: Injured tissue like inflamed bursa or bone spurs are excised.

4.     Acromioplasty: The surgeon may remove some of the acromion bone to create more room and relieve pressure on the rotator cuff tendons.

5.     Repair: If necessary, other repairs like repair of the torn tendons can also be done at the same time.


Recovery from subacromial decompression involves:Recovery from subacromial decompression involves:

·        Immediate Postoperative Period: Most patients are usually discharged the following day. Pain and inflammation are treated with oral medications and icing the area.

·        Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation follows surgery to improve range of motion, strength, and function of the affected area. It may take several weeks or even months to complete the therapy.

·        Return to Activities: The vast majority of people are usually able to return to their daily lives in a matter of months, although individuals who work in physically demanding jobs or participate in athletics may require more time to heal.


The majority of patients are likely to have reduced pain and improved shoulder function after subacromial decompression. However, the outcome of the surgery can be influenced by several factors such as the severity of the injury, presence of other shoulder disorders and the patient’s compliance to the physiotherapy regimen.

Risks and Complications

As with any surgical procedure, subacromial decompression carries potential risks, including:As with any surgical procedure, subacromial decompression carries potential risks, including:

·        Infection

·        Bleeding

·        Nerve damage

·        Limited or no range of motion of the shoulder.

·        Failure to achieve sufficient symptom management


It is therefore important that other forms of treatment be attempted before resorting to surgery. These may include:

·        Physical therapy

·        Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

·        Corticosteroid injections

·        Activity modification

Subacromial decompression could be beneficial for patients who have not been helped by other methods and can provide patients with a better quality of life and reduced pain in the shoulder joint. However, it is advised that the patients should sit down with their orthopedic surgeon to consider the pros and cons of the procedure.