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Surg Radiol Anat. 1993;15(1):63-70.

Anatomy of the acromial arch: correlation of anatomy and magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Anatomie, Faculté de Médecine, Paris, France.


Based on a retrospective study of 179 MRI records covering four populations (patients presenting with impingement without known injury (n = 90), post-traumatic shoulder pain (n = 28), instability or dislocation (n = 36) and controls (n = 25)), morphologic criteria are suggested to define presumedly normal arches and arches compatible with subacromial impingement. The subacromial arch is presumed normal or without impingement if the sagittal and frontal views show it to be parallel to the humeral head, and/or if there is a fatty layer interposed between the arch and the supraspinatus m. The arch is presumed "aggressive" or actually capable of giving rise to impingement if, in either the sagittal or frontal view, there is a zone of narrowing of the subacromial passage with an impression of the arch on the supraspinatus tendon or tendinous thinning at this level or just lateral to this narrowed zone. Based on these criteria, study of the 179 MRI records demonstrated a significant difference of distribution of the arches in the four populations. "Aggressive" arches were found in 45.5% of patients with impingement, 25% of patients with posttraumatic pain, 8.9% of patients with an acute or recurrent dislocation and 12% of controls. Conversely, a presumedly normal arch was found in 56% of the controls, 55% of patients with dislocation, 25% of posttraumatic painful shoulders and only 5.5% of patients with clinical impingement. Subacromial impingement may be due to the type 3 acromial dysplasia described by Bigliani or to a thickening of the coracoacromial ligament at its acromial attachment. This study was supplemented by 15 anatomic dissections which confirmed the regularity of attachment of the coracoacromial ligament at the inferior aspect of the acromion along its lateral border.

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