A Clavicle Fracture is also known as a broken collarbone. This injury normally occurs after a direct blow to the shoulder, or during a fall onto the shoulder.
It is a common injury in equestrian, skiing or cycling sports, when a person is thrown off a horse, their skis or bicycle onto the shoulder.
But it can also sometimes occur in the impact of a motor vehicle accident or in contact sports such as football, hockey and martial arts. The likelihood of breaking your collarbone is increased further, if the surface fallen onto is hard.
For more information on a broken collarbone and your possible treatment options, call +44 (0) 203 195 2442 to arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.
How is a clavicle fracture treated?
Immediate treatment will involve the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation), and pain medication to alleviate any discomfort.
Usually, a clavicle fracture with little separation will heal without surgery. A sling or arm brace may be recommended for a couple of weeks as well as pain medication. The fracture will normally take six to eight weeks to fully heal and normal function should return.
If the ends of the fractured bone have shifted out of position, then surgery will normally be recommended. Recent research has shown that surgery for displaced clavicle fractures will allow for a better chance to heal and will improve function of the arm.
If you are concerned about the severity of injury, a London Shoulder Specialists consultant can assess the severity of the damage. They will carry out a thorough physical examination, as well as X-ray or MRI scan to assess the extent of damage and will confirm the degree of injury. After this, your consultant can advise you on the most appropriate treatment plan, including surgical and non-surgical options, that will give you the best possible outcome.
What does surgery for a clavicle fracture involve?
Surgery will normally be recommended when there is a fracture with a large separation, in compound or open fractures, if the broken ends of bone are overlapping (shortened clavicle), or when there is nerve or blood vessel damage.
Surgery involves a small incision on top of the collarbone and the insertion of a metal plate and screws to maintain the proper position. These are normally left in the bone, but they can be removed later after the fracture has healed.
Your suitability for this treatment will be discussed with you at your consultation, as well as the risks of going ahead with surgery. Some specific risks of clavicle fracture surgery include difficulty in bone healing, lung injury and irritation caused by the plates, screws or pins required to hold the bones in position.
After surgery, it will normally take up to 12 weeks for a full recovery and a return to sports/normal activities. However, this will involve following a program of strengthening exercises, directed by a physical therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions on Clavicle Fractures
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A BROKEN COLLARBONE?
A broken collarbone will cause pain, swelling and bruising around the collarbone, particularly at the fracture site. Pain will increase on trying to move or lift the arm because of the swelling over the bone. A bump will often appear at the fracture site.
More rarely, patients can experience numbness and tingling in the arm, if the fracture has compressed blood vessels and nerves in the area.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO HEAL A BROKEN COLLARBONE?
A clavicle fracture can take up to three months to heal and patients can often experience aches and increased sensitivity for far longer than this. Your recovery can be speeded up by using a splint or brace, using anti-inflammatory painkillers, plus following range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.
WHEN IS SURGERY FOR A BROKEN COLLARBONE NECESSARY?
Surgery for a clavicle fracture may be necessary in the following conditions:
- are multiple fragments of bones with gaps between them
- shortening of the clavicle
- hasn’t healed properly after three to six months
- a fracture at the end of the bone near the shoulder which interferes with the AC joint
If you have further questions about possible treatment options for a clavicle fracture, please arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.