Clavicle Fracture

Clavicle Fracture

in Orthopaedic News
A clavicle fracture is a break in the collarbone, one of the main bones in the shoulder. This type of fracture is fairly common—accounting for about 5 percent of all adult fractures. Most clavicle fractures occur when a fall onto the shoulder or an outstretched arm puts enough pressure on the bone that it snaps or breaks. A broken collarbone can be very painful and can make it hard to move your arm.Most clavicle fractures can be treated by wearing a sling to keep the arm and shoulder from moving while the bone heals. With some clavicle fractures, however, the pieces of bone move far out of place when the injury occurs. For these more complicated fractures, surgery may be needed to realign the collarbone.

Anatomy

The clavicle is located between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade (scapula). It is the bone that connects the arm to the body.

The clavicle lies above several important nerves and blood vessels. However, these vital structures are rarely injured when a fracture occurs.

Description

Clavicle fractures are fairly common and occur in people of all ages. Most fractures occur in the middle portion, or shaft, of the bone. Occasionally, the bone will break where it attaches at the ribcage or shoulder blade.

Clavicle fractures vary. The bone can crack just slightly or break into many pieces (comminuted fracture). The broken pieces of bone may line up straight or may be far out of place (displaced fracture).

Cause

Clavicle fractures are most often caused by a direct blow to the shoulder. This can happen during a fall onto the shoulder or a car collision. A fall onto an outstretched arm can also cause a clavicle fracture. In a baby, a clavicle fracture can occur during the passage through the birth canal.

Symptoms

A clavicle fracture can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm. Other signs and symptoms of a fracture may include:

  • Sagging of the shoulder downward and forward
  • Inability to lift the arm because of pain
  • A grinding sensation when you try to raise the arm
  • A deformity or “bump” over the break
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone

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