More commonly known as a broken collarbone, a clavicle fracture occurs most often after a direct blow to the shoulder through collision or falling, and can occur in people of all ages. Clavicle fractures mostly do not require surgical treatment, but generally do require a course of treatment including diagnosis, use of a sling, and physical therapy. In cases that require surgical treatment, the bone is typically shifted out of place and requires surgery to align the bone for proper healing. During clavicle fracture repair, an incision is made over the clavicle while the patient is under general anaesthesia. The two segments of the clavicle are repositioned into proper alignment and held in places with screws or metal plates.
Who is a candidate?
Candidates have a broken collarbone that has been displaced and requires proper alignment to heal are candidates for clavicle fracture repair. Additional symptoms include sagging shoulder, an inability to lift the arm because of pain, a bump over the break, as well as bruising, swelling and/or tenderness over the collarbone.
Who is not a candidate?
Candidates whose broken collarbones are capable of repairing themselves without surgical intervention do not require clavicle fracture repair.
Prior to undergoing clavicle fracture repair, an examination to diagnose the broken collarbone and determine if surgery is necessary should be performed. Before surgery, you should inform your orthopedic surgeon of any medications or supplements you take, and comply with certain general surgery procedures such as preoperative blood testing and possible cessation of smoking or use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs one week prior. You may need to stop taking blood thinner medication (e.g. Warfarin). You will likely be asked to stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery.
Immediately after the procedure, you will keep your arm in a sling for 4-6 weeks. For any major pain or discomfort during the initial recovery period, you will have prescribed pain medication. Follow your orthopedic surgeon’s postoperative instructions and attend any follow-up visits, which can then confirm proper positioning and normal healing of the collarbone. A physical therapy regimen will help restore strength and range of motion gradually, with full recovery taking up to 6 months for complete return to regular vigorous activity.
As with any surgery, there are risks of complications related to infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, bleeding and blood clots, or adverse reactions to anesthesia. However, incidences of these complications are extremely rare. Complications specific to clavicle fracture repair include nonunion (failure of the broken collarbone to heal), which occurs in about 15% of cases. The hardware added to the bone may also cause irritation and may require surgical removal later on.
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