Skip to main content
Arthroscopic shoulder decompression for subacromial pain

Arthroscopic shoulder decompression for subacromial pain

Statutory Guidance


Arthroscopic sub-acromial decompression is a surgical procedure that involves decompressing the sub-acromial space by removing bone spurs and soft tissue arthroscopically.


Arthroscopic subacromial decompression for pure subacromial shoulder impingement should only offered in appropriate cases. To be clear, ‘pure subacromial shoulder impingement’ means subacromial pain not caused by associated diagnoses such as rotator cuff tears, acromio-clavicular joint pain, or calcific tendinopathy. Non-operative treatment such as physiotherapy and exercise programmes are effective and safe in many cases.

For patients who have persistent or progressive symptoms, in spite of adequate non-operative treatment, surgery should be considered. The latest evidence for the potential benefits and risks of subacromial shoulder decompression surgery should be discussed with the patient and a shared decision reached between surgeon and patient as to whether to proceed with surgical intervention.

Rationale for recommendation

Recruiting patients with pure subacromial impingement and no other associated diagnosis, a recent randomised, pragmatic, parallel group, placebo-controlled trial investigated whether subacromial decompression compared with placebo (arthroscopy only) surgery improved pain and function. While statistically better scores were reached by patients who had both types of surgery compared to no surgery, the differences were not clinically significant, which questions the value of this type of surgery.

On the other hand, a more recent prospective randomised trial comparing the long term outcome (10 year follow up) of surgical or non-surgical treatment of sub acromial impingement showed surgery to be superior to non-surgical treatment.

Other studies of limited quality identify certain patients with impingement syndrome that improve with surgical subacromial decompression if non-operative management fails. There is also some evidence to show the benefit of surgery when used selectively and applying national clinical guidelines.

A review of the literature identified one further systematic review that looked at the effectiveness of surgery. The review was limited by the quality of evidence but their findings showed no difference between patients treated with surgery and those treated with non-surgical options.

Healthcare professionals treating patients with subacromial pain should be familiar with the NICE approved commissioning and treatment guidelines for the management of subacromial pain.

Risks associated with arthroscopic sub-acromial decompression are low but include infection, frozen shoulder, ongoing pain, potential damage to blood vessels or nerves and those associated with having a general anaesthetic.



Patient information

There is no specific EBI patient guidance for this intervention.

However, we recommend using the BRAN principles (Benfits, Risks, Alternatives and do Nothing) when speaking with patients about this.

Further information on patient involvement in EBI can be found on the EBI for patients section.


Code script

WHEN ( (LEFT(der.Spell_Dominant_Procedure,4) ='O291’ 
AND apcs.der_procedure_all like '%Y767%') 
OR (LEFT(der.Spell_Dominant_Procedure,4) ='W844’ 
AND apcs.der_procedure_all like '%Z812%’)
OR (LEFT(der.Spell_Dominant_Procedure,4) ='W572’ 
AND apcs.der_procedure_all like '%Z812%’) )
AND apcs.der_diagnosis_all like ‘%M754%'
AND apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%M751%’ 
AND APCS.Admission_Method not like ('2%')
THEN 'L_should_decom'

Code Definitions

Procedure codes (OPCS)

O291 Subacromial decompression
Y767 Arthroscopic approach to joint (must be supplementary to O291)
W844 Endoscopic decompression of joint (may be performed along with O291)
Z812 Acromioclavicular joint (secondary to W844)
W572 Endoscopic decompression of joint (may be performed along with O291)
Z812 Acromioclavicular joint (secondary to W572)
O291 Subacromial decompression (when Y767 is not included in the supplementary position this indicates an open procedure)

Diagnosis codes (ICD)

M754 Impingement syndrome of shoulder
M751 Rotator cuff syndrome (code for rotator cuff tear)

Additional Exclusions
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%C[0-9][0-9]%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D0%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D3[789]%' and
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D4[012345678]%’

This code captures code in the ranges C00-C99, D00-D09 and D37-D48.
Age range: the codes use the following age ranges 0-18 for children and 19-120
for adults.
— Private Appointment Exclusion
AND apcs.Administrative_Category<>’02’


  1. Beard DJ, Rees JL, Cook JA, Rombach I, Cooper C, Merritt N, Shirkey BA, Donovan JL, Gwilym S, Savulescu J, Moser J, Gray A, Jepson M, Tracey I, Judge A, Wartolowska K, Carr AJ; CSAW Study Group. Arthroscopic subacromial decompression for subacromial shoulder pain (CSAW): a multicentre, pragmatic, parallel group, placebo-controlled, three-group, randomised surgical trial. Lancet. 2018 Jan 27;391(10118):329-338. doi: 1016/S0140-6736(17)32457-1. Epub 2017 Nov 20. PubMed PMID: 29169668; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5803129.
  2. Dorrestijn O, Stevens M, Winters JC, van der Meer K, Diercks RL. Conservative or surgical treatment for subacromial impingement syndrome? A systematic J Shoulder Elbow Surg 2009; 18: 652–60.
  3. Farfaras S, Sernert N, Rostgard Christensen L, Hallström EK, Kartus JT. Subacromial Decompression Yields a Better Clinical Outcome Than Therapy Alone: A Prospective Randomized Study of Patients With a Minimum 10-Year Follow-up. Am J Sports 2018 May;46(6):1397-1407
  4. Holmgren T, Björnsson Hallgren H, Öberg B, Adolfsson L, Johansson K. Effect of specific exercise strategy on need for surgery in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome: randomised controlled study. BMJ. 2012 Feb 20;344:e787. doi: 1136/bmj.e787
  5. Magaji SA, Singh HP, Pandey RK. Arthroscopic subacromial decompression is effective in selected patients with shoulder impingement J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2012 Aug;94(8):1086-9
  6. Jacobsen JR, Jensen CM, Deutch SR. Acromioplasty in patients selected for operation by national guidelines. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2017 Oct;26(10):1854-1861.
  7. BOA (2014) Commissioning Guide: Subacromial Shoulder Pain

How up to date is this information?

Last revised December 2023


December 2023 - Coding updated. August 2022 - Coding updated