Clavicle (collar bone) Fracture

I had an accident and broke my collar bone

Depending on the fracture site and type, your injury can be treated conservatively or might require surgical fixation. Regardless, you might find yourself in an emergency department, suffering from pain and information overload and need some guidance and care. Please feel free to get in touch (07 3394 4073) and we will endeavor to look after you acutely. Should you happen to be at Greenslopes Private Hospital Emergency Centre ask your treating doctor to get in touch with us. This is a straight forward referral process and Dr Rhau is often able to see you on short notice.

What are the symptoms of clavicle fracture?

Following direct trauma to the shoulder the clavicle can break and causes discomfort at swelling. The shoulder might appear shorter and often there is a visible lump or tenting of the skin. Shoulder motion will be painfully restricted.

Who get’s a clavicle fracture?

Clavicle fractures are common childhood fracture and occur at falls from height (child falling from a tree or off the bike) onto the shoulder. Often clavicle fracture happen during sports activity in contact sports and it’s also a common cyclist’s injury.

How is clavicle fracture diagnosed?

The history of trauma gives a first clue and patients usually know that their clavicle is broken straight away. Clinically the shoulder appears slightly shorter and there will be a visible lump over the fracture site. Shoulder motion will be reduced due to pain and x-ray and CT scan are used to image the fracture and help to plan surgery if required.

Treatment of clavicle fracture

The majority of clavicle fractures heal spontaneous even if the fragments are not directly opposed. It is not uncommon that a ‘malunion’ occurs, meaning the fragments grow together in the position they came to rest in. Mostly this does not cause a functional disability, a visible lump however remains in a lot of theses cases. This conservative management means immobilization in a shoulder sling for 4 to 6 weeks. Where the fracture is more complex with multiple fragments, gross displacement of fragments or skin tenting threatening penetration, surgical fixation should be considered.

Surgery for clavicle fracture

Surgery for clavicle fracture is performed as an overnight stay in the hospital. There are several techniques available and it is my preference to use a special screw which will be placed inside the clavicle. However some fractures require fixation with plate and screws and sometimes removal of hardware is required 12 months after surgery due to irritation.

Preparing for surgery for clavicle fracture

Prior to the procedure, we will arrange for one preconditioning physiotherapy session where we fit a shoulder immobilizer, explain some simple exercises and give you an ice bladder with icing instructions. If required we will also arrange for a bulk billed pre-admission clinic at the hospital. This is run by a specialist anesthetist who will gather information and request investigations that are required for safe anesthesia. Our reception staff will advise of costs, hospital and admission details.

Recovery after surgery for clavicle fracture

After surgical fixation sling immobilization is recommended for 2 weeks and physiotherapy can commence within a few days following the procedure. Generally patients who undergo surgical clavicle fixation recover earlier as compared to non-operative management. The surgical incision will be closed with internal sutures and the wound will have healed when you will have your scheduled two week postoperative appointment with me. The fracture will have healed at the six week mark after surgery and you will have an x-ray and follow up appointment with your surgeon. From then on a gym based strength and resistance training can be tailored individually for you in order to return to your pre injury activity level. You should be fully recovered by the three months mark after surgery.