What is a Clavicle Fracture?

Chances are you, or someone you know, has broken their collarbone. Clavicle fractures are quite common, making up 5% of all adult fractures. This flat, long bone in the front of the shoulder, runs horizontally from the base of the neck to the shoulder and fractures are common, especially in athletes who participate in impact sports. The majority of clavicle fractures occur mid-shaft, however, not all clavicle fractures are the same. Breaks can vary from a simple crack through the bone, where the ends line up perfectly, or they can break in different patterns where some breaks are more complex than others. Historically, most collarbone fractures were treated without surgery. However, new studies have shown that patients with displaced or shortened fractures heal better with surgical clavicle fracture repair. Dr. Armando Vidal, orthopedic shoulder surgeon, has been successfully treating patients in Vail, Aspen and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities who have simple and complex clavicle fractures.

Clavicle Fracture Fixation | Vail CO

Are there different kinds of clavicle fracture?

Clavicle fractures vary based on location and severity. The bone can crack, leaving a hairline fracture, or it can break into many pieces; called a comminuted fracture. The broken pieces of bone may be out of place, called a displaced fracture, or they may line up straight. Doctors also classify clavicle fractures by the type of fracture, depending on where the break occurs along the collarbone.

What causes a broken collarbone?

Children and teens are at a higher risk of fracturing their collarbone because their bones don’t harden completely until they are about 20 years old. Older people are also at risk, because their bone strength decreases with age.  Some common causes of a broken collarbone are:

  • Sports activities, especially high-impact sports like football, hockey or soccer
  • Falls, such as falling on an outstretched hand
  • Trauma or accident, such as a vehicle, bicycle or motorbike accident
  • Birth injury, can occur from passing through the birth canal

How do I know if I’ve broken my collarbone?

Symptoms of a fractured clavicle aren’t subtle and typically includes extreme pain and difficulty in moving your arm. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain that increases with shoulder movement
  • Swelling, tenderness and bruising over the collarbone
  • A deformity (bulge or bump) on the shoulder
  • Grinding or crackling sound when moving the shoulder
  • Sagging of the shoulder, usually inward and downward

How is a clavicle fracture repair done?

A procedure called open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is used to place the bones of the clavicle back in their original anatomical position and allows them to heal. The ORIF procedure is a proven successful technique in which the bone fragments are first reduced (repositioned) into their normal, correct alignment. The pieces of bone are then held in place with metal plates and screws.

Once the clavicle fracture has healed properly, some patients request to have the hardware removed (plates and screws). This is only necessary if the hardware results in discomfort to the patient.

How long does recovery take after clavicle fracture repair?

Patients often have less pain and recover more quickly after surgical repair of their collarbone than letting it heal on its own without surgical intervention. Surgery ensures proper alignment of the bone and they are allowed to lift their arm in about 4-6 weeks, (depending on the severity of the fracture). This type of surgery does not require much physical therapy and patients often return to their normal work and play activities in as little as 3 months.

Clavicle Repair Surgeon

Clavicle fractures are a very common injury, especially in those participating in contact sports. Severity of the fracture varies by person, however, a clavicle fracture generally requires surgery to repair properly. Arthroscopic shoulder surgeon, Doctor Armando Vidal has performed clavicle fracture repair surgery for many patients in Vail, Aspen, and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities who have experienced a traumatic injury. Contact Dr. Vidal’s team today!


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