Diagnosis and Treatment of Clavicle Fractures in Wake County

What is a Clavicle Fracture?

The clavicle, or collarbone, connects the breastbone to the shoulder blade. It is also one of the most commonly broken bones. Clavicle fractures can happen due to vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and falls. Without proper treatment, the clavicle may form a nonunion or a delayed union in the shoulder joint, or remain broken and cause further issues. As a result, individuals will continue to experience tenderness, swelling, and pain.

What Causes Clavicle Fractures?

Clavicle fractures can happen in numerous ways, most of which involve sustaining a high-impact blow to the shoulder region. Participating in full-contact sports or being involved in an automobile accident are typical circumstances for breaking this bone. Unfortunately, elderly individuals are more susceptible to clavicle fractures from minor falls on the arm or shoulder due to low bone density. Additionally, babies can sometimes sustain a clavicle fracture as they move through the birth canal.

Symptoms of Clavicle Fractures

An individual with a clavicle fracture may experience one or more common symptoms, including: 

  • A bump or a visible deformity in the shoulder
  • Excessive bruising
  • Difficulty moving the arm
  • Extreme pain

How are Clavicle Fractures Diagnosed?

A physician will use various techniques to diagnose a clavicle fracture, including a complete physical examination of the area. Next, they will use digital imaging methods to help pinpoint the fracture for proper treatment. Finally, depending on your situation, your doctor may ask for an X-ray or a CT scan of your shoulder.

Treatment for Clavicle Fractures in Wake County

Clavicle fractures will often heal successfully without surgical treatment. It is vital to properly support the bones during healing via conservative methods. Each technique will involve a proper treatment plan from your doctor.

Nonsurgical Treatment

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In most cases, your doctor will not resort to surgery to treat a clavicle fracture. Instead, you will require a sling to hold your arm and shoulder in a stable and immobile position. This positioning will aid the healing process. Because clavicle fractures are painful, many individuals will take pain medication and use ice to help reduce swelling in the area. In addition, your doctor may request periodic X-rays throughout your treatment to monitor your progress and ensure that the bone is healing correctly. 

After the bone heals, patients undergo physical therapy as part of recovery. This step helps to maintain an ideal range of motion in the shoulder joint and restore strength.

Surgical Treatment Options

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If your clavicle fracture calls for more aggressive treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. Some circumstances that may prompt surgical treatment for a broken clavicle are when the bones have moved entirely out of place, or are fractured in more than one area. Surgical techniques for clavicle fractures include open reduction and internal fixation.

  • Open Reduction – With an open reduction, a surgeon will cut through the skin and tissues to physically move the bones back to their proper location. 
  • Internal Fixation – If you have multiple clavicle fractures, your surgeon may use pins, screws, or metal plates to connect the bone pieces, so they heal into the original position. Once the bone completely heals, your doctor removes the pins, screws, and plates.

Clavicle Fracture Recovery Time

The recovery time for a clavicle fracture will vary, depending on the treatment plan and the severity of the break. Typically, children will recover from a clavicle fracture in about three to six weeks without surgery, while adults need about six to eight weeks.

Surgical treatment for clavicle fractures will result in a longer recovery time. Individuals will need to use sling immobilization after the surgery and follow the same protocols for pain management, swelling, and physical therapy. Therefore, a full recovery in this situation can take 6 to 12 months.

How Can I Prevent Clavicle Fractures?

Clavicle fractures are often caused by accidental falls and automobile accidents, making them hard to prevent. However, being mindful of prevention measures can minimize the chances of breaking this bone. For example, always wear your seatbelt and drive safely. When playing full-contact sports, always wear suitable protective gear and be aware of your surroundings. You can keep your bones strong and healthy by consuming enough calcium and following a proper diet. Also, remember to keep your home and workspace free of trip hazards to minimize your chances of falling.

Expert Shoulder Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

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At Raleigh Orthopaedic, we provide the best in orthopedic care. Using extensive knowledge and experience, we successfully treat various shoulder injuries with surgical and nonsurgical options available. Our Raleigh Orthopaedic experts can help relieve your shoulder pain and find treatment options that work for you. Schedule a visit with one of our shoulder specialists today so you can get started on the road to healing!