Collarbone Fracture

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

A collarbone fracture is a break that occurs in the collarbone,also called the clavicle. The collarbone is the bone that connects thebreastbone, also called the sternum, to the shoulder blade.

What is going on in the body?

The collarbone is a long, narrow, S-shaped, solid bone. Becauseof its location and shape, it can be injured when the arm, elbow, or shoulder suffersany trauma. The collarbone is located in front of a number of key nervesand blood vessels. Rarely, these nerves and blood vessels may be injuredwhen the collarbone is broken.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

A collarbone fracture is often caused by a fall. Trauma may alsooccur during contact sports, such as ice hockey, football, or wrestling. Othercauses may include:

  • a tumor in the collarbone
  • conditions that cause weak bones, such as osteoporosis
  • physical abuse,including child abuseor elder abuse
  • A newborn’s collarbone may be broken during birth as the child travels throughthrough the birth canal.

    Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Symptoms of a fractured collarbone may include:

  • a visible deformity or bump that may be seen through the skin
  • a rubbing or grinding sensation when the arm is raised
  • a shoulder that flops down and forward
  • inability to move the arm
  • numbness or tingling sensation in the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • pain, ranging from moderate to severe
  • pain that increases with movement
  • a preference for holding the shoulder and arm close to the body with the arm supported
  • swelling around the shoulder and collarbone
  • weakness in the arm
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    After doing a complete medical history and physical exam, thedoctor may order:

  • a biopsyof any fluid or growths to check for infection or tumors
  • a nerve conduction test,also called an NCV, to measure nerve damage from the injury
  • blood tests to rule out infection, including acomplete blood count
  • imaging tests, such as MRI,if a tumor is suspected
  • X-rays to locate the break and its severity
  • Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    A person can prevent some injuries by following sports safetyguidelines for children,adolescents,and adults.A healthy diet with adequate calciumcan help prevent some fractures caused by bone weakness.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Long-term effects will depend on the extent of the fracture and thesuccess of treatment. If a person was involved in sports or heavy lifting beforethe injury, his or her normal range of motion in the shoulder may be decreased.Chronic painor soreness in the shoulder and collarbone may also occur. Damage to the nervesand blood vessels is also possible. This damage can lead to decreased sensation andother tissue damage.

    What are the risks to others?

    A collarbone fracture poses no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Minor to moderate injury may require “RICE” therapy:

  • R = rest or reduced activity
  • I = ice or cold packs applied to the shoulder, for 15 minutes every2 hours
  • C = compression of the affected area, such as with a special splint called afigure-of-8 splint or a sling
  • E = elevation of the shoulder or affected arm
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, may berecommended to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Examples of NSAIDs areibuprofen and naproxen.

    After a few days to weeks, the initial pain and swelling will begin tosubside, and the bone will start to heal. At this time,physical therapyor strength training exercises may help to increase the strength of the tendons andmuscles. Ultrasoundmay also be used to warm the muscles and improve blood flow.

    If conservative treatment is not successful, surgery may be needed.Sometimes, a bone graftmay be needed to promote healing.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    There may be stomach upset, ulcers, or anallergic reactionto NSAIDs. Splints or slings can cause muscle tightening as well as skinirritation. Treatments that require surgery pose a risk of bleeding, infection,and allergic reactionto anesthesia.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    In some situations, no further treatment is needed.Physical therapyand daily exercises may be advised to strengthen the muscles and help the bonecontinue to heal. Complete recovery from the fracture may take several months.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to thedoctor.

    Article type: xmedgeneral