Transient sternoclavicular joint arthropathy, a self-limited disease

Amir Sternheim, Ofir Chechik, Yehuda Freedman, Ely L. Steinberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The sternoclavicular joint (SCJ) is a true diarthrodial synovial joint and therefore vulnerable to the same disease processes as in other synovial joints. We identified a group of patients with monarticular arthritis of the SCJ that had a benign process and a self-limited disease course. Methods: This retrospective study included 25 female patients who presented with pain or swelling of the SCJ between January 2000 and December 2010. Their mean age was 59 years, and the average follow-up was 44 months. All patients underwent baseline radiographic imaging, technetium bone scan, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. Blood profiles were negative for rheumatoid factor in all patients. Functional outcome was assessed with the Rockwood SCJ score. Results: The patients presented with complaints of pain (72%), local swelling (88%), and redness (8%) that progressed during 4 weeks. The physical examination revealed tenderness (84%), swelling (88%), and limited range of motion (16%). These findings persisted for a median of 5 months. Plain radiographs showed arthritic changes in 5 patients (20%). Increased uptake was observed in all 9 patients who underwent a bone scan. Soft tissue swelling was demonstrated on computed tomography in 5 patients (20%) and on magnetic resonance imaging in 5 patients (20%). One patient had osteoarthritic changes on magnetic resonance imaging. Pain resolved spontaneously in all patients, leaving only swelling in 9 patients and tenderness in 1 patient. Conclusion: Our experience is that SCJ arthropathy may often be a self-limited disease. After being treated solely with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, 24 of the 25 study patients showed complete regression of pain and return to full function without recurrence of symptoms. Basic blood tests and radiographs are sufficient to rule out a septic joint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-552
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Arthralgia
  • Inflammation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sternoclavicular joint


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