Clavicle fractures are most often caused by a direct blow to the shoulder, which can happen during a fall onto the shoulder, a fall onto an outstretched arm, or in a car collision or bicycle accident.
Patients with a clavicle fracture experience the sudden onset of severe pain and have trouble lifting their arms due to pain.
If you have broken your clavicle or have injured your shoulder and suspect you may have a clavicle fracture, call Dr. Sara Jurek for a consultation:
Common symptoms of a clavicle fracture include:
Medical History. Dr. Jurek will discuss the details of your injury; when and how it happened.
Physical Exam. She will perform a careful exam of your shoulder (including your clavicle) to confirm the diagnosis.
Imaging Studies. An x-ray of the clavicle will be ordered to visualize the fracture. If necessary, Dr. Jurek will order a CT (computerized tomography) scan to see the extent of the fracture in more detail.
Treatment of a clavicle fracture depends upon the severity of the injury. Many broken collarbones heal well without surgery.
Nonsurgical Treatment. If the bones have not significantly shifted out of place, the fracture may be treated with a sling, pain medication, and physical therapy once the fracture has adequately healed. Physical therapy starts with gentle range of motion shoulder exercises followed by strengthening exercises.
Follow-Up Care. During your recovery, you will see Dr. Jurek in clinic for x-rays to ensure that your clavicle is healing in good alignment.
Surgical Treatment. If the broken ends of the bones have become significantly displaced, ORIF surgery may be necessary to position the fracture fragments back into anatomic position (that’s the “open reduction” part of ORIF) and then stabilize them (that’s the “internal fixation” part of ORIF) while they heal. During the procedure, an incision is made and the fracture fragments are positioned (reduced) into their normal alignment. A metal plate and screws are then attached to the outer surface of the clavicle to hold it in place while it heals. X-rays are performed during the surgery to verify the correct alignment of the bones and the position of the plates and screws.
Plates and screws are not routinely removed after the clavicle heals but can be removed once the fracture is completely healed if they are causing discomfort.
After surgery, your arm will be placed in a sling, and Dr. Jurek will have you start gentle shoulder range of motion exercises a few days after surgery. You may start moving your elbow, wrist, and fingers right away. Use cold therapy to help with postoperative pain and take pain medication as directed.
Recovery from ORIF surgery for a clavicle fracture can take 6-12 weeks for the bone to heal fully. You can expect to begin physical therapy to regain shoulder range of motion within 2-4 weeks after surgery. Strengthening exercises are added gradually as your healing progresses.
Most patients are able to return to normal activities within 3-4 months.
As with any surgery, there are risks of clavicle fracture surgery, including
Patients who smoke or have poorly controlled diabetes are at a higher risk for complications such as infection and delay or failure of healing of the fracture after surgery.
Dr. Jurek will talk about these risks during your consultation and explain the specific measures that can be taken to avoid such complications.