About Clavicle Fractures
Fractures of the clavicle are a common injury that I treat. “Broken collarbones” seem to be more commonly associated with higher energy injuries. When patients crash their bicycle or their motorcycle, they will sometimes break their clavicle.
A shoulder practitioner will make the diagnosis of fracture of the humerus or clavicle after obtaining a history, performing a careful examination, and reviewing imaging studies. Plain X-RAYS are usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis of a fracture of the clavicle.
Clavicle fractures can be subdivided into several different types. Those that are minimally displaced or minimally angulated are usually treated without surgery. Those that have substantial displacement, shortening, or angulation may benefit from surgery.
I have a strong preference for a clavicle strap as the preferred method of treatment for clavicle fractures that are treated without surgery. It is okay to use a regular sling also. Both methods generally result in satisfactory healing.
I prefer a clavicle strap because I have found that most patients are more comfortable in a clavicle strap than they are when only using a sling. Many of the providers that render initial care in our area are unfamiliar with use of the clavicle strap. I have them in my office and am able to transition the patient from a regular sling into a clavicle strap with minimal discomfort.
No matter which method of treatment is used, broken collarbones hurt a lot. It is important to prepare for several weeks of discomfort.
Some clavicle fractures will do best if surgery is performed. Surgery generally involves the use of a plate and screws in an attempt to improve the alignment of the bone and hold the bone in that improved position.
When healing is complete most patients are able to return to full activity after sustaining an isolated clavicle fracture. Permanent deformity of the bone is common after the bone heals completely.