Which Clavicle Fractures Need Surgery

Most clavicle fractures happen when a fall onto the shoulder or an outstretched arm puts enough pressure on the bone to break it. Clavicle fractures can heal if you keep the arm and shoulder still with the help of a sling. However, “Which clavicle fractures need surgery” is something to discuss in detail.

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Where is the Clavicle?

The clavicle, or collarbone, connects the breastbone (sternum) to the shoulder. It is a strong, slightly S-shaped bone that is visible in many people. One end connects to the sternum at the sternoclavicular joint, which has cartilage. The other end connects to the shoulder at the acromion, part of the shoulder blade (scapula), at the acromioclavicular joint, which also has cartilage.

Are Clavicle Fractures Common?

The collarbone acts like a bridge between the breastbone and the shoulder blade. Because it’s in a crucial spot, any strong force on the shoulder, like falling directly on it or landing on an outstretched arm, can affect the collarbone. That’s why it’s one of the bones that break most often.

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Types of Clavicle Fractures

Your doctor might consider using a specific system, like Neer’s, to classify your fracture. These systems describe where the fracture is and if other tissues are affected. Using these systems helps your doctor understand your injury and decide the best treatment. Following are some types your doctor can use to classify your fracture type:

  • Singular/Comminuted: Your collarbone can crack in one spot or multiple spots. If it’s broken in more than one spot, it’s called a comminuted fracture.
  • Displaced/Non-displaced: When your broken collarbone pieces stay in the right position, it’s called non-displaced. But if they move from their original spots, it’s a displaced fracture.

Clavicle Fracture Treatment

If the broken bones haven’t moved much, you might not need surgery. Many collarbone breaks can heal without it. Some non-surgical options include:

  • Arm Support: Right after the break, a simple arm sling helps with comfort and keeps your arm and shoulder steady while you heal.
  • Medication: Pain relievers like acetaminophen can ease discomfort as the fracture heals.
  • Physical Therapy: Despite some pain, it’s important to keep moving your arm to prevent stiffness in your shoulder and elbow. Often, patients start elbow exercises right after the injury to maintain motion.

Which Clavicle Fractures Need Surgery?

If the broken bones have moved significantly, your doctor might suggest surgery. During surgery, the broken bone pieces are put back in their proper place and kept there until they heal. This can help improve shoulder strength later on.

  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation:
    This is the common surgery for clavicle fractures. First, the bone fragments are moved back into their normal position. Then, special metal hardware is used to hold them in place.

Common Methods:

  • Plates and Screws: Special screws and metal plates are attached to the bone’s outer surface to keep the bone fragments in position.
  • Pins or Screws: These are used to hold the fracture in place after the bone ends are realigned. The incisions for these are usually smaller than those for plates. Pins or screws might irritate the skin and are often taken out once the fracture is healed.

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If this surgery is a little frightening, I understand. I interviewed doctors until I was satisfied that the one I chose was right for me. The pain and restriction of movement in my left shoulder was debilitating. Dr. Michael Cusick is totally committed to his trade. Complete total reverse shoulder replacement.

Kyle Powell

Don't get me wrong there was hiccups and waiting to have surgery seemed like forever but Dr. Cusick, his office staff and the hospital staff especially has been amazing. They went above and beyond to get my surgery approved so we wouldn't have to put it off longer. Dr. Cusick keeps a positive outlook even at times...

Kathy Zenker

Excellent surgeon. Great bedside manner. Had difficulty getting insurance paperwork filled out by office staff. Dr Cusick is awesome.

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Bottom Line

Even though your collarbone might not seem easy to break, its link to your shoulder makes it vulnerable. Any strong force on your shoulder can affect your collarbone. However, it’s important to understand which clavicle fractures need surgery for the right treatment.

Visit Dr. Cusick at Michael C. Cusick, M.D. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeon has extensive experience in general orthopedic surgery, trauma, and joint reconstruction. Call us at (713) 794-3599 to book an appointment.


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