Shoulder Surgery Bone Spur Removal Causes Problems

By /

I commonly see patients with chronic shoulder pain who have undergone a shoulder surgery bone spur removal to “open up” the shoulder. Known as distal clavicular resection, it’s one of the most commonly performed shoulder surgeries with rotator cuff repair. New research now shows that the surgery doesn’t help and leads to more shoulder instability which frequently causes more pain and arthritis.

The rotator cuff is made up of muscles that help to move and actively stabilize the shoulder. It can become torn through old age or trauma. Rotator cuff surgery is the most common shoulder surgery in the United States with about 80,000 procedures a year. Most patients will also end up with a distal clavicular resection surgery as well, which is when the end of the collar bone is chopped off. The concept behind distal clavicular resection is that it “opens up” space for the rotator cuff. This is based on the idea that constant compression of the rotator cuff muscles and/or tendons is what may have caused the muscle to tear.

So is this additional procedure that’s widely added to a rotator cuff surgery to prevent future compression of the torn muscle needed? A new study looked at 78 patients and randomized them to rotator cuff repair with or without distal clavicular resection. The researchers looked at pain and function metrics and also took specialized x-rays to determine if the shoulder was stable (which is good) or unstable (which is bad). What were the results? Whacking off the end of the clavicle did not help pain nor function anymore than not cutting out this piece. However, in the distal clavicular resection (DCR) group, some patients developed instability of the shoulder. Regrettably, this particular study design also likely vastly underestimated the number of unstable shoulders in the DCR group, as the x-ray test used to find unstable shoulders is far less sensitive than other tests that could have been used. As a side note, about 1/3 of both groups failed to heal their rotator cuff tears after surgery, which is consistent with other studies showing high rates of failure for rotator cuff repair.

The upshot? Cutting off the end of the collar bone with a rotator cuff surgery is a dumb idea. I’ve seen countless patients walk into my office with grossly unstable shoulders after this surgery who are still in pain, despite the big procedure. If you or a loved one is considering shoulder surgery, first see if you’re a candidate for newer biologic injection options before considering shoulder surgery. Second, if you can only be treated with surgery, then become an informed patient and skip the chop job on the collar bone!

Learn about Regenexx procedures for shoulder conditions.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, please email us at [email protected]

NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

Get Blog Updates by Email

We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors.

By submitting the form you agree that you’ve read and consent to our Privacy Policy. We may use email, phone, or other electronic means to communicate information about Regenexx.

We will provide information to help you decide whether you want to schedule an evaluation with a Regenexx Physician.

Insurance typically covers evaluations and diagnostic testing (if recommended). Most insurance plans currently do not cover Regenexx Procedures.

Copyright © Regenexx 2021. All rights reserved.



9035 Wadsworth Pkwy #1000
Westminster, CO 80021


*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.