Clavicle Fractures

Clavicle Fractures

What is the Clavicle?

The clavicle, or collarbone, is responsible for connecting your shoulder to your central skeleton and sternum.  Structurally, it can be thought of as a horizontal strut that contributes to the “broadness” of your shoulders along with the shoulder blades on the backside of your body.  It is also a bone that lies close beneath the skin and is an important landmark for several medical procedures as well as forming the “ceiling” of your thorax, the armored chamber that houses your heart and lungs.

What do I do if I think I broke my collarbone?

These are diagnosed with an xray–if you notice a severe deformity, break in the skin, or have numbness or paralysis of your arm, you should seek urgent treatment. Fractures of the clavicle can occur due to a direct frontal blow to the bone but are more common from indirect trauma.  Falling on your shoulder or going hard into a wall or other stationary object, leading with your shoulder, can cause “failure of the strut” or–a clavicle fracture.  These are quite painful initially and it is difficult to use your arm/shoulder immediately after a fracture.  Even moving and breathing are painful during the first several days.

What is the treatment for a Clavicle Fracture?

Fortunately, many clavicle fractures are successfully treated without surgery.  If fractures meet nonsurgical criteria, a sling is worn for several weeks followed by gradual progression of normal function over 4-6 weeks.  Athletics and highly vigorous activities may be restricted for 2-3 months to allow the injury to heal enough for resumption.  Expectations with nonsurgical management are that patients may have a mild deformity, typically only noticed with close scrutiny.  If we are recommending nonsurgical treatment for your clavicle fracture and you are a healthy, active person, it is because, assuming you heal as anticipated, we anticipate that you will have zero limitations once healed.

What type of surgery is done for a Clavicle Fracture?

There is a subset of clavicle fractures for which surgical repair is recommended.  This is based on specific xray criteria in which nonsurgical treatment could result in less than full function or failure of the clavicle to heal without repair.  If this is the type of fracture you have, surgical repair will likely be recommended.  This is done either with a plate and screws or with a pin placed in the center of the collarbone.  When the pin is used, it is necessary to remove it surgically after full healing.  This is not necessary with the plate, however, many patients request plate removal after the collarbone heals.

Surgery is done on an outpatient basis and requires several weeks of sling wear after surgery.  Time of recovery is similar to nonsurgical treatment, generally requiring 4-6 weeks for return to normal everyday function and 2-3 months for return to athletics.  Results are excellent for surgical repair of clavicle fractures with the expectation being complete restoration of all function.

All your physicians at Motor City Orthopedics have extensive training and experience in surgical and nonsurgical treatment of clavicle fractures and will get you back to being yourself quickly and safely.