Collarbone Fractures

A brief overview of collarbone fractures of the shoulder


Sabrina M. Strickland, MD

Associate Attending Orthopedic Surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College
Consultant in Orthopedic Surgery, Bronx Veteran Affairs Medical Center


 

A broken collarbone (clavicle) is a common injury, often due to a fall from a bicycle or an injury during contact sports.

Diagnosis

Along with pain and tenderness, the symptoms typically include a “bump” over the midpoint of the clavicle or a sagging shoulder. In children, the injury may occur at the growth plate, closer to the end of the bone.

Examination of the shoulder will usually demonstrate a visible deformity along with crepitus (grinding) at the fracture site. Occasionally the skin may be tented by a sharp bony spike -- this is a surgical emergency requiring prompt evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon. An x-ray allows evaluation of the type of fracture, which will then guide the appropriate treatment.

Treatment

Most broken collarbones heal without surgery by immobilization in a sling with ice and pain medication. However, some breaks result in overlapping of the bone ends, which can result in a non-union of the break or shortening of the bone, both of which can affect shoulder function.

If non-operative treatment is undertaken, abundant new bone formation may result in a bony prominence or bump at the healing site, which will get smaller as the bone remodels over time. Once the bone has fully healed, sports activities can be resumed slowly with full return when the patient achieves full shoulder motion and strength.


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