What is a clavicle fracture or a broken collarbone?

The clavicle, also called the collarbone, is part of the shoulder and connects the upper part of the breastbone to the shoulder blade. You can find your clavicle easily, at the base of your neck and extending to the shoulder on each side. A clavicle fracture or broken collarbone occurs when this thin, long bone breaks. A clavicle fracture is a common injury and most often occurs in children and young adults. A broken collarbone is most often caused by sports trauma, but can also occur from a fall, traffic accident, and in infants, from the birth process. Clavicle fractures can be common, but it is often good to get a second opinion regarding the treatment from an expert at BICMD. Our “best in class” orthopedic surgeons have extensive training and expertise on the best treatment methods for clavicle fractures. They can advise you on who to see and what the best treatment should be for your specific injury.

What are the types of clavicle fractures?

Orthopedic specialists classify clavicle fractures, based on where the break occurs along the bone. The types of collarbone fractures are:

  • Midshaft – The break or fracture occurs in the middle of the bone. This is the most common type of clavicle fracture.
  • Distal or Lateral – The break occurs near the shoulder at the furthest part of the bone
  • Medial – The break occurs near the neck at the center of the body. Medial clavicle fractures are rare and occur close to the sternum.

What are the symptoms of a clavicle fracture?

Clavicle fractures are typically very painful. Symptoms include:

  • Sharp pain at time of injury
  • Pain when moving the arm
  • Inability to lift the arm
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness on the collarbone
  • A bump or deformity over the fracture
  • Crepitus (grinding or crunching sound with movement)
  • Downward shoulder sag

How is a clavicle fracture or broken collarbone diagnosed?

The experts at BICMD can diagnose a clavicle fracture or broken collarbone through our state-of-the-art telemedicine visit. A thorough patient history, as well as the incidents that led up to the injury will be discussed. A review of an x-ray will confirm the diagnosis and sometimes a CT Scan or an MRI Scan may be requested for the physician to visualize any soft tissue damage.

What is the treatment for a clavicle fracture?

Non-surgical treatment:

Many clavicle fractures can be treated non-surgically by wearing a sling to immobilize the arm and to keep the shoulder from moving. Medication may be prescribed to help with the pain and to promote healing. Ice, rest and immobilization are important until the fracture heals. Physical therapy is not recommended until the break is healed. This can be verified with a follow-up x-ray or CT Scan.

Surgical treatment:

If the bones have moved out of their normal position, or if the clavicle has fracture in pieces, surgery may be required. The goal of surgery for a broken collarbone is to realign the collarbone and hold it in its correct anatomical position until healing can occur. There are different surgical procedures and materials used to repair a clavicle fracture and can include:

Procedure:

  • ORIF – Open Reduction and Internal Fixation – Describes the process of restoring the bone back to the proper position and holding it in place with special hardware.

Materials:

  • Plates and Screws – Surgical materials that may be used to hold the fracture in place
  • Pins and Screws – Surgical materials used to hold a more severe fracture in place. Sometimes the pins or screws cause irritation and can be removed after the bone heals.

How long does it take a clavicle fracture to heal?

The bones of a broken clavicles or a broken collarbone take time to heal or “knit.” A patient’s age, health, activity level and underlying health conditions can play a part in healing and recovery time. Diabetic patients typically take longer to heal, where children can heal in a little as 3-6 weeks. The average adult in good health takes between 6-8 weeks to heal. Physical therapy is then recommended to regain strength of the arm and shoulder. Full recovery after a clavicle fracture and the return to contact sports is usually 4-6 months.

For more information and clavicle fracture or a broken collarbone, or to obtain an expert 2nd opinion before having a surgical procedure, please contact our orthopedic shoulder surgeons and specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.