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Fracture of the Collarbone

A broken collarbone is also known as a clavicle fracture. This is a very common fracture that occurs in people of all ages.
Broken collarbones occur in babies (usually during birth), children and adolescents (because the clavicle does not completely ossify, or develop, until the late teens), athletes (because of the risks of being hit or falling), or during many types of accidents and falls.

Cause:

Clavicle fractures are extremely common. Clavicle fractures are 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.

Symptoms

Clavicle fractures can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sagging shoulder (down and forward)
  • Inability to lift the arm because of pain
  • A grinding sensation if an attempt is made to raise the arm
  • A deformity or “bump” over the break
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone

During the evaluation, your doctor will ask questions about the injury and how it occurred. After discussing the injury and your symptoms, your doctor will examine your shoulder.

There is usually an obvious deformity, or “bump,” at the fracture site. Gentle pressure over the break will bring about pain. Although a fragment of bone rarely breaks through the skin, it may push the skin into a “tent” formation.
Your doctor will carefully examine your shoulder to make sure that no nerves or blood vessels were damaged.
In order to pinpoint the location and severity of the break, your doctor will order an x-ray. X-rays of the entire shoulder will often be done to check for additional injuries. If other bones are broken, your doctor may order a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan to see the fractures in better detail.

What is the treatment for a clavicle fractures?

Treatment of clavicle fractures most commonly involves resting the affected extremity. There are several types of slings available; one commonly used is called a”figure-of-8″ splint. This is a brace that wraps around the shoulders to keep them back–like a soldier standing at attention.
It is unusual for a clavicle fracture to require surgery, and most often an attempt at treatment in a sling is made. Surgery is required in some situations when either the skin is broken or if the fracture is severely displaced or shortened.