The clavicle bone is our collarbone and clavicle fractures are any broken bones in the clavicle. Clavicle fractures are responsible for 5% of hospital emergency visits for fractures. Children and infants are especially susceptible to clavicle fractures. In fact, some newborn babies are born with clavicle fractures after a difficult delivery and birth. In adults, clavicle fractures may bring on other complications such as development of a pneumothorax or paresthesias in the upper extremities.
Some of the symptoms that are characteristic of clavicle fractures are swelling, pain when trying to use the upper extremities and the patient reports falling on an upper extremity. If the clavicle fractures are severe, you may be able to feel through the skin after the swelling goes down. The patient may report either falling on one of the upper extremities or being hit with a heavy object in that area.
In order to give you the best possible treatment for your fracture, the physician will determine what type of clavicle fracture you have suffered.
Clavicle fractures are usually broken down into one of three different groups.
Group 1-clavicle fractures are when the fracture is in the middle of the bone. Approximately 80% of all clavicle fractures are fall in the group 1 category with both adults and children. The medial bone that is next to the sternum will pull itself upward due to the pressure from the sternocleidomastoid muscle, while, at the same time, the part of the bone that is toward the shoulder will go down toward the weight of the arm. Group 2-clavicle fractures are breaks that occur near the shoulder or the distal third of the bone. About 15% of all clavicle fractures are group 2. Group 3-clavicle fractures occur near the sternum or medially. Group 3-clavicle fractures are the least common, comprising on about 5% of the clavicle fractures.
Treatment of clavicle fractures will vary depending on the group the clavicle fracture falls into as well as the severity of each individual patient. In most cases, the treatment will be to support the entire arm with a sling and make sure it is rested. Rest, the use of a sling and pain medication is usually all that is needed for the clavicle to heal itself. The physician will probably order X-rays every few weeks to make sure it is healing as it should. Over 90% of clavicle fractures are able to heal without surgery. Surgery will be recommended if it is an open fracture or could possibly cause nerve or tissue damage. These situations are rare, however.