Imaging of the Acromioclavicular Joint: Anatomy, Function, Pathologic Features, and Treatment

Radiographics. 2020 Sep-Oct;40(5):1355-1382. doi: 10.1148/rg.2020200039. Epub 2020 Aug 7.


The acromioclavicular joint is an important component of the shoulder girdle; it links the axial skeleton with the upper limb. This joint, a planar diarthrodial articulation between the clavicle and the acromion, contains a meniscus-like fibrous disk that is prone to degeneration. The acromioclavicular capsule and ligaments stabilize the joint in the horizontal direction, while the coracoclavicular ligament complex provides vertical stability. Dynamic stability is afforded by the deltoid and trapezius muscles during clavicular and scapular motion. The acromioclavicular joint is susceptible to a broad spectrum of pathologic entities, traumatic and degenerative disorders being the most common. Acromioclavicular joint injury typically affects young adult males and can be categorized by using the Rockwood classification system as one of six types on the basis of the direction and degree of osseous displacement seen on conventional radiographs. MRI enables the radiologist to more accurately assess the regional soft-tissue structures in the setting of high-grade acromioclavicular separation, helping to guide the surgeon's selection of the appropriate management. Involvement of the acromioclavicular joint and its stabilizing ligaments is also important for understanding and classifying distal clavicle fractures. Other pathologic processes encountered at this joint include degenerative disorders; overuse syndromes; and, less commonly, inflammatory arthritides, infection, metabolic disorders, and developmental malformations. Treatment options for acromioclavicular dysfunction include conservative measures, resection arthroplasty for recalcitrant symptoms, and surgical reconstruction techniques for stabilization after major trauma.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint* / anatomy & histology
  • Acromioclavicular Joint* / injuries
  • Acromioclavicular Joint* / pathology
  • Acromioclavicular Joint* / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Joint Diseases / therapy*