CLAVICLE FRACTURE FIXATION
The clavicle (collarbone) is located above the shoulder joint. It helps support the shoulder and also protects certain arteries and nerves in the upper chest area. Clavicle fractures are most common in contact athletes and cyclists. The clavicle can break in one of multiple locations, either closer to the center of the chest (sternum) or closer to the shoulder. The most common location for a fracture is right near the middle of the bone, a mid-shaft fracture. Those patients who require surgery usually have a mid-shaft fracture with either significant displacement (shortening) and/or comminution (a fracture with multiple pieces). Multiple studies have shown higher healing rates and better outcomes for these types of fracture patterns.
During surgery, Dr. Welch makes an incision above the clavicle bone and identifies the ends of the fractured bone. Dr. Welch then positions the fracture ends into the appropriate position and fixes the broken bone with a plate and screws. Dr. Welch will place the plate and screws either on the front end of the clavicle or on top of the clavicle, depending on the fracture pattern. In other patients with a clean break, Dr. Welch may use smaller incisions to place an intramedullary rod (long pin) in the middle of the clavicle to keep it in the right position during the healing phase.
Following surgery, patients are given a sling for comfort. Dr. Welch recommends intermittent icing and gentle range of motion following surgery. Dr. Welch also recommends starting physical therapy approximately two weeks after surgery. Physical therapy focuses on reducing swelling in the shoulder, restoring full range of motion, and maintaining strength in the shoulder. The fracture takes approximately 6-10 weeks to heal in most patients.