The clavicle (collarbone) is a bone that spans between the shoulder and the sternum (breast bone). It has a couple of important roles; the first is that it acts as a strut keeping the shoulder in the correct position and preventing it from collapsing into a more forward position. Its other role is to protect the very important blood vessels and nerves that lie just beneath the clavicle, in the neck.
The symptoms associated with a fractured clavicle include;
- Pain at rest and on attempted shoulder movement
- Poor shoulder movement
X-rays are used to confirm the diagnosis of a fractured clavicle although occasionally, with complex fractures, a CT scan might also be required to aid management and plan any operative intervention than might be necessary.
The treatment for a fractured clavicle is always tailored to the patient and the nature of the fracture.
- Non-operative; Rest, immobilisation in a sling, activity modification, pain relief and physiotherapy can prove helpful. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibruprofen can help control the pain but should only be used regularly under the guidance of your General Practitioner. The sling usually needs to be worn for six weeks.
- Clavicle fracture fixation; Surgical fixation can be used to restore the normal anatomy of the clavicle. The fractured bone is reduced and then held and internally fixed (ORIF) using plates and screws. A sling is still used following the procedure but surgery can restore normal anatomy and therefore function.