Clavicle Fracture(Broken Collarbone)

Overview

What Is a Fractured Clavicle?

Your clavicle, or collarbone, stretches across your chest, connecting the upper breastbone to your shoulder. A fall onto outstretched hands or a blow to the collarbone can cause the bone to fracture (crack or break while the bone stays in place) or break (split into several pieces or move apart).

A fractured or broken collarbone is a very common type of injury, especially among children, young adults and athletes. When you suspect a collarbone injury, it’s best to seek medical advice about the right treatment.

A bruised collarbone can heal with simple treatment. A complicated clavicle fracture will need more care, like surgery to hold the bone in place so it can heal.

The Aurora Difference

Treatment & Recovery for Clavicle Fractures & Breaks

Aurora Health Care orthopedic and sports medicine specialists treat all types of clavicle fractures and breaks.

Whether you need a sling, physical therapy or complex surgery, our experts in trauma care and joint reconstruction can help restore your collarbone. We provide:

  • Convenient evaluation and treatment: We have many locations across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, so you can easily find a clinic close to home. For all types of injuries, we offer free injury evaluations to help you choose the right treatment path.
  • Experts in orthopedic surgery: When a broken collarbone needs surgical repair, you can have confidence in our fellowship-trained orthopedic specialists. These doctors have additional education and practice in orthopedic surgery beyond medical school, in addition to their years of professional practice.
  • Coordinated care: Whether or not you need surgery, your orthopedic specialist will coordinate with your physical therapist and primary care doctor to treat your collarbone injury. For example, your doctor will be able to easily track your physical therapy progress in your Aurora electronic medical record.

Symptoms & Causes

What Causes a Clavicle (Collarbone) Fracture or Break?

A direct blow to the shoulder causes most clavicle fractures or breaks. Sometimes, bending or pressure causes a break.

Other common causes include:

  • Falls onto the shoulder or outstretched arm
  • Car accidents
  • Collisions while playing sports
  • The passage through the birth canal, for a baby

Signs of a Clavicle Fracture or Break

The symptoms of a fractured or broken collarbone can vary depending on the type of break and its location. A clavicle fracture causes pain. A traumatic break will be so painful that it’s hard to move your arm.

Other signs of a clavicle fracture or broken collarbone include:

  • A painful bump or bulge over the break
  • The shoulder sagging forward and down
  • Tenderness, bruising or swelling
  • Pain that prevents lifting the arm
  • A grinding sensation when you lift the arm

In a newborn baby, the infant might not move the arm for several days on the side with the fracture. A baby’s broken collarbone usually heals on its own with gentle care.

It’s important to see a doctor right away if you suspect a broken collarbone. You’ll need medical attention to get the care that will help the collarbone heal.

Diagnosis

Confirming a Broken Collarbone

When you come in for a diagnosis, we’ll examine your collarbone and ask how the injury happened. We’ll also perform an exam to check for open wounds, swelling and bruising.

You may have an X-ray before you see the doctor. The X-ray provides a closer look at the fracture to help us determine if nearby joints are damaged. For more complex breaks, computed tomography (CT) scans can provide more detail. CT scans compile a series of X-rays into a detailed image.

Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis.

Treatment

How We Treat a Clavicle Fracture

Treatment for a clavicle fracture depends on the injury. A simple fracture might heal without surgery, given time and support.

If the ends of the bone have not moved out of place, we might fit you with a sling to immobilize the arm while the bone heals. Anti-inflammatory pain relief medications will help keep you comfortable during this time. Complete healing usually takes 6 to 12 weeks.

Physical therapy can help you maintain and rebuild arm and shoulder strength as your collarbone heals. Read more about orthopedic physical therapy.

Surgery to Repair a Broken Collarbone

When a fractured clavicle breaks into several pieces, breaks through the skin or is severely out of place, surgery can fix it. Our orthopedic specialists will discuss the surgery with you so you know what to expect.

Broken collarbone surgery usually includes placing screws, plates or pins in the collarbone or surrounding bones. These devices hold the bone tight and steady while it heals, the same way a furniture clamp holds a chair together while glue sets. Like a clamp, the screws might be removed after the bone has set.

If the injury has damaged the joints surrounding the collarbone, our joint specialists can repair, reconstruct or replace the shoulder joint. Find out more about treatments for shoulder pain

After surgery, medications and ice can relieve pain while you heal.

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