Clavicle fracture, also called broken collarbone is a very common sports injury seen in people who are involved in contact sports such as football and martial arts as well as impact sports such as motor racing. A direct blow over the shoulder that may occur during a fall on an outstretched arm or a motor vehicle accident may cause the clavicle bone to break. A broken clavicle may cause difficulty in lifting your arm because of pain, swelling and bruising over the bone.
A broken clavicle, usually heals without surgery, but if the bone ends have shifted out of place (displaced) surgery will be recommended. Surgery is performed to align the bone ends and hold them stable during healing. This improves the shoulder strength. Surgery for the fixation of clavicle fractures may be considered in the following circumstances:
- Multiple fractures
- Compound (open) fractures
- Fractures associated with nerve or blood vessel damage and scapula fracture
- Overlapping of the broken ends of bone (shortened clavicle)
Plates and Screws fixation
During this surgical procedure, your surgeon will reposition the broken bone ends into normal position and then use special screws or metal plates to hold the bone fragments in place. These plates and screws are usually left in the bone. If they cause any irritation, they can be removed after fracture healing is complete.
Placement of pins may also be considered to hold the fracture in position and the incision required is also smaller. They often cause irritation in the skin at the site of insertion and have to be removed once the fracture heals.
Patients with diabetes, elderly individuals and people who use tobacco products are at a greater risk of developing complications both during and after the surgery. In addition to the risks that occur with any major surgery, specific risks of clavicle fracture surgery include difficulty in bone healing, lung injury and irritation caused by hardware.
Percutaneous elastic intramedullary nailing of the clavicle is a newer and less invasive procedure with lesser complications. It is considered as a safe method for fixation of displaced clavicle fractures in adolescents and athletes as it allows rapid healing and faster return to sports. The procedure is performed under fluoroscopic guidance. It involves a small 1 cm skin incision near the sternoclavicular joint, and then a hole is drilled in the anterior cortex after which an elastic nail is inserted into the medullary canal of the clavicle. Then the nail is passed on to reach the fracture site. A second operation to remove the nail will be performed after 2-3 months.