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Does a Broken Collarbone Need Surgery?


Also known as your collarbone, the clavicle is a long, s-shaped bone that runs horizontally between your sternum and shoulder blade. The collarbone connects your arm to the rest of your shoulder.


The collarbone can break into several pieces or suffer a minor crack. All clavicle fractures, even “minor” ones, should be seen by an orthopaedic specialist immediately.


What Happens When You Break Your Collarbone?

A broken clavicle is a common injury and is typically caused by sudden, high-impact trauma. Common causes of a broken collarbone include:


  • Sports injuries

  • Falling onto an outstretched arm or landing forcefully on your shoulder

  • Collisions

  • Direct blows to the shoulder


A clavicle fracture typically occurs in one of three places:


  1. Near the shoulder joint

  2. In the middle of the collarbone

  3. Close to the breastbone


Once the break occurs, the symptoms of a broken collarbone are immediate and obvious. These can include:


  • Pain

  • Bruising

  • Swelling

  • Inability or difficulty moving your shoulder and arm

  • A grinding sensation when you attempt to lift your arm

  • Abnormal shoulder sagging

  • A deformity or bump around the site of the fracture


It’s essential to immediately contact an orthopaedic physician, especially if the pain or injury prevents normal use. Delays could cause complications that can cause your collarbone to heal poorly. Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics will use x-ray imaging to diagnose the issue to diagnose the clavicle fracture and determine the severity of your injury.


When Do You Need Surgery for a Broken Collarbone?

If the clavicle fracture hasn’t forced the broken bone ends out of place, most broken collarbones can be treated nonsurgically. Conservative treatment methods for a broken clavicle include:


  • Splinting

  • Bracing

  • Arm sling

  • Icing

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Physical therapy


There is a risk that the broken bone can shift out of place before it heals. Regular follow-ups with your orthopaedic doctor are essential to ensure this does not take place.


Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery if the broken ends of the collarbone need to be shifted back into place or held in place until they heal. Sometimes this can involve inserting plates, screws, and/or pins to prevent the bones from moving out of place.


A broken collarbone will need several months to heal - whether it needs surgery or not. It’s not usual to lose shoulder movement and arm strength, and a personalized rehabilitation program will help to restore normal function.


Contact Dr. Joseph About Your Clavicle Fracture


If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of a clavicle fracture or want to speak with an orthopaedic specialist about your broken collarbone, contact Dr. Joseph in his Eagle or Summit County clinic today!


Dr. Joseph and his team of orthopaedic experts will work with you, designing a treatment plan that gets you back to doing the activities you love. Contact our offices today at 970-476-7220 or request an appointment via our online platform.




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