The clavicle is a long, curved bone making up a portion of the shoulder girdle. It connects the shoulder itself to the sternum, which is referred to as the breastbone. A sternoclavicular joint fracture is an injury that takes place when a break occurs in the clavicle bone or in the sternum. The break can occur at either end of the clavicle, but most often, the middle third of the clavicle bone is affected as this is the area that represents the thinnest part of the bone. Dr. Peter Millett, orthopedic shoulder surgeon in the greater Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado area, is highly trained and experienced at treating an SC fracture.

Fractures to the SC joint are often caused by direct trauma to the shoulder where the clavicle and breastbone reside. Sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents are common causes, as are direct falls that take place to an outstretched arm or shoulder.

SC Fracture Symptoms

A sternoclavicular joint fracture will cause a number of symptoms, including pain, bruising, swelling, limited movement and a physical/visible deformity that resembles a bump underneath the skin, which represents the break within the bone.

SC Fracture Diagnosis

Dr. Millett can commonly diagnose an SC fracture with only a physical examination and a series of X-rays. An MRI or CT scan may also be recommended by Dr. Millett and his orthopedic team to examine the injured joint in more detail and rule out other possible injuries to the surrounding shoulder structures.

SC Fracture Treatment

While conservative treatment can be used to treat an SC fracture, most patients respond well to surgery. Surgical treatment is necessary if the sternoclavicular joint shows an open fracture that has punctured the skin, or if there is severe displacement of the bone. Most fractures that have at least a two-centimeter fragment overlap or shortening will require surgery. Dr. Millett will use an incision to enter the sternoclavicular joint and he will evaluate the complexity, location and severity of the fracture. In most cases, he will perform a reduction procedure, which essentially connects the broken bones. In some cases where the fracture is more severe, Dr. Millett will use a plate or other source of hardware to cover the fracture site. This helps stabilize the sternoclavicular joint fracture location and protects it while it heals.

For more resources on sternoclavicular joint fractures, or for additional information on SC fracture treatment options, contact Dr. Peter Millett, orthopedic shoulder specialist in the greater Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado communities.