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Suprascapular Neuropathy

J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 17, No 11, November 2009,

Dana P. Piasecki, MD, Anthony A. Romeo, MD, Bernard R. Bach, Jr, MD and Gregory P. Nicholson, MD Suprascapular neuropathy is a relatively uncommon but significant cause of shoulder pain and dysfunction. The suprascapular nerve follows a tortuous course from the neck to the posterior shoulder. There are several potential causes of nerve entrapment along this path, particularly at the vulnerable suprascapular and spinoglenoid notches, where nerve excursion is limited by bony and ligamentous constraints. Additional extrinsic compression may be caused by glenohumeral joint–related ganglion cysts or soft-tissue masses. Traction neuropathy may occur following excessive nerve excursion during overhead sports or as a result of massive, retracted rotator cuff tears in older patients. Diagnosis is based on a careful history, physical examination, focused imaging, and electrodiagnostic studies. In the absence of a clear structural compression or overtensioning of the nerve, treatment initially should be nonsurgical, with activity modification and physical therapy. Discrete nerve compression or failure of nonsurgical measures warrants early surgical intervention. Arthroscopic alternatives to the traditional open suprascapular and/or spinoglenoid notch decompressions have the benefit of simultaneously diagnosing and addressing intra-articular and/or subacromial pathology while minimizing morbidity. In most patients, both open and arthroscopic approaches provide reliable pain relief and improvements in function; return of strength and muscle bulk is less predictable.

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