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Seven patients with osteochondral defects of the humeral head were treated over a 3 year period (2002–2005). In six of the patients the diagnosis was made incidentally at time of arthroscopy with the seventh patient being diagnosed preoperatively. There were 5 males and 2 females with an average age of 48 years. Four patients had a history of trauma. The preoperative diagnosis was impingement in 5, supraspinatus partial thickness tear in one and an osteochondral defect in the seventh. Ultrasound revealed a supraspinatus partial thickness tear in one, fluid in the biceps grove in one, and was normal in the other 5. One patient had a MRI which showed a SLAP lesion. All patients had conservative treatment with subacromial injection with 2 patients having complete relief of pain, 2 having almost complete relief, and the other 4 having improvement but not complete relief of pain. Only 2 of the patients had a minor reduction in movement. At arthroscopy the osteochondral defect measured 1x 1 cm in four cases and 1 x 1,5 cm in the other 3. In all patients the osteochondral defect was debrided and the exposed bone abraded. Four patients had an acromioplasty, one had an acromioplasty and excision of the AC joint, one had a debridement only and the seventh patient had an acromioplasty, SLAP repair and debridement of a partial thickness supraspinatus tear.

The follow-up averaged 24 months (6–58). The VAS improved from an average of 6,4 preoperatively to 1,2 postoperatively and the ASES improved from 47 preoperatively to 85 postoperatively. All patients were happy to have had the procedure.

In conclusion, debridement and abrasion of osteochondral defect was an effective treatment in this series. Acromioplasty should be added when indicated.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Léana Fourie, CEO SAOA, PO Box 12918, Brandhof 9324 South Africa.