Dr. Carlos Rebollón
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A clavicle fracture is one of the most common types of bone fractures in early stages (children, adolescents, and young adults) as well as in the elderly (elderly individuals and older adults).
Its main causes include falls, trauma from accidents, or sports-related injuries. Occasionally, newborns can suffer a clavicle fracture during the birthing process.
WHAT IS A CLAVICLE FRACTURE?
A clavicle fracture is caused by a direct impact that affects the bone connecting the sternum to the shoulder blade (clavicle). Depending on the injury, this bone structure can experience a “clean” break (simple fracture), fragmentation into multiple parts (multiple fractures), or displacement of the bone.
Immediate medical attention is the best approach for addressing this type of injury, as it allows for the quick exclusion of other potential complications resulting from the traumatic event and also helps prevent poor bone healing.
In most cases, clavicle fractures heal completely with conservative treatment. However, multiple or displaced fractures may require surgical intervention, where special techniques are used to realign the bone internally.
SYMPTOMS OF A CLAVICLE FRACTURE
A clavicle fracture may exhibit the following signs:
In most cases, a physical examination coupled with X-rays is used for diagnosis. The collected information allows for determining the exact location, degree, and other characteristics of the fracture, determining whether it is simple, multiple, or displaced. In the case of displaced fractures, additional assessment is needed to evaluate the presence of associated neuromuscular damage.
TREATMENTS FOR A CLAVICLE FRACTURE
Restricting the movement of the fractured clavicle is crucial for achieving bone consolidation; thus, immobilization with a sling is necessary for the duration specified by your doctor.
Here are some treatment methods for individuals with a clavicle fracture:
To alleviate severe pain and typical inflammation resulting from a fracture, the specialist may prescribe specific analgesic medication for a specified period.
Therapies Early mobilization has proven to be beneficial in reducing shoulder stiffness after the primary treatment of a clavicle fracture. Therefore, once the sling period is over, the doctor may suggest additional rehabilitation and/or physiotherapy to help the patient fully regain strength, movement, and flexibility of all affected structures.
The goal of surgery is to apply rods, plates, and/or fixation screws to maintain the clavicle in its natural position while the bone heals. The procedure typically takes around 2 hours and can yield excellent results.
REHABILITATION PROCESS AFTER THIS FRACTURE
The use of a sling in children may last from 3 weeks to 1.5 months, while in adults, the timeframe could extend between 2 and 3 months. Clavicle fractures occurring during the birthing process usually heal on their own, so only pain management and careful handling of the baby are necessary.
HOW TO SLEEP WITH A CLAVICLE FRACTURE?
Individuals with clavicle fractures are advised to sleep on their side, placing the weight on the unaffected side. They can also sleep on their back, as long as they are cautious about avoiding sudden or abrupt movements that could jeopardize the recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
If the clavicle fracture is open (with exposed bones or tissues), multiple, or displaced, it may require surgical intervention. However, your doctor will first discuss the available options based on your condition.
Although uncommon, some individuals may experience nerve injuries or damage to blood vessels during a clavicle fracture. Complications after surgery may include infections and poor bone healing.
A clavicle fracture causes instability in the shoulder area. Therefore, to achieve successful bone consolidation, it is recommended to avoid any physical activities that generate impact on the recovering structure. Your orthopedist will advise you on when you can resume your regular exercise routine.