How are fractures in the shoulder treated?
There are specific treatment recommendations for each type of shoulder fracture. Clavicle and proximal humerus fractures are frequently treated surgically in active patients when there is significant displacement (separation) of the bone ends. Non-surgical and arthroscopic surgical options are always discussed to make sure the injured bone heals properly. Those are outlined below:
The clavicle—or collarbone—is the bone on top of one’s chest on both sides at the front of both shoulders. The clavicle is very easy to feel as it represents itself as a prominent bony connection between the shoulder and the body itself. Because the clavicle is located directly under the skin in an area with little soft tissue coverage, fractures to the area not only produce intense shoulder pain but they are also cosmetically obvious to the naked eye. Fractures within the collarbone are among the most common fractures of the shoulder area. Treatment of a collarbone fracture typically does involve surgery when there is significant separation of the bone ends or shortening (overlap) of the bone ends. Surgical treatment is performed with a small pin or plate, depending on the configuration of the fracture fragments, that hold the bone in place until it heals solidly (usually 6 weeks or so). Surgery not only insures that the bone heals in proper alignment but it also results in a better long term functional outcome for the arm, decreases pain in the immediate area around the fracture, allows earlier resumption of everyday activities, allows earlier return to sport in some cases, and decreases the risk of a malunion (healed in the wrong position) which frequently heal with a cosmetically displeasing bump. In some instances, there can be late complications that may need surgical treatment such as when the bone has healed incorrectly or when it has failed to heal. Dr. Millett has done extensive research on this topic and has successful outcomes for his patients who have experienced a clavicle fracture.
When a clavicle fracture is minimally displaced or non-displaced, non-surgical treatment is recommended with plenty of rest. Patients will usually need to wear a sling to help prevent movement and to keep the area immobile. For the most part, these types of collarbone fractures will repair and heal themselves in about 12 weeks.