The collarbone is the bone that connects the sternum to the scapula and serves as the fulcrum for every movement of the shoulder. The clavicle fracture is a very common injury observed in athletes who practice contact sports but, being a very "anatomically exposed" bone, the fracture can also occur after a minor direct trauma, frequent in falls from a motorbike or bicycle.
Sports most commonly associated with clavicle fractures include soccer, rugby, cycling and skiing. In our daily activity, cases often occur in which there is a collarbone fracture after a fall at home, a road accident or accidental trauma.
A broken collarbone often causes pain, swelling, and bruising. Shoulder pain increases with movement. Sometimes there is swelling and a change in the normal contour of the shoulder around the fracture area and you may hear a crackling noise when you try to raise your armo.
To diagnose a broken clavicle, the orthopedic surgeon, having collected the information regarding the dynamics of the injury, will perform a visual, palpatory and functional examination of the shoulder and will use an X-ray to identify the exact position and shape of the clavicle fracture. In some cases, when multiple bone fragments are suspected following the X-ray examination, the doctor may also recommend computed tomography (CT) scanning.
Clavicle fractures tend to heal without surgery. The patient is prescribed a brace to support the arm and avoid movements that could lead to displacement of the fracture. In case of severe pain, the use of pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs is evaluated to relieve the painful symptoms. After a few days of restraint (20 / 30 days) with a brace that allow the fracture of the clavicle to consolidate with consequent reduction of pain, the orthopedic surgeon can recommend that the patient undergo, after radiographic control, a specific rehabilitation protocol to reacquire the normal functionality.
Broken clavicle surgery is necessary for displaced fractures. Surgery is done when the fractured extremities need to be realigned and stabilized during the healing process. Surgery involves the use of angular stable plates and screws to maintain (fix) the correct position of the bone during the consolidation period. The surgical gesture takes place through a longitudinal skin incision of a few centimeters which allows the correct vision of the fracture so as to allow the anatomical realignment of the clavicle. Plates and screws are generally made of titanium and are not removed if well tolerated by the patient. Eventually the removal takes place after 8 months.