When Is Surgery Necessary? | What Are Your Options?
One of the more common injuries, particularly among people who participate in contact sports, is a broken clavicle, commonly referred to as a broken collarbone. The clavicle runs horizontally between your shoulder blade and the top of your sternum (breastbone). A fracture in your collarbone can cause swelling or bruising that makes it difficult or impossible to lift your arm.
In many, but not all situations, a broken clavicle will heal on its own, without surgery, provided you immobilize it and give it plenty of rest. In some instances, though, surgery is needed in order to return a person to maximum health:
- When the clavicle bone becomes displaced or misaligned because of the break, including when bone ends overlap
- When the bone protrudes through the skin (a compound fracture)
- When there are multiple fractures of the same collarbone
- When there appears to be blood vessel or nerve damage because of the fracture
- When the shoulder blade is also broken
Surgical Procedures Used to Repair a Broken Clavicle
If necessary, your surgeon will start by realigning the bones so that they do not overlap. Once your collarbone is back in place, metal plates and/or screws often areused to hold bones in place. Common practice is to leave the screws in permanently, but doctors can remove them if they start to cause irritation.
In lieu of plates and screws, a surgeon may opt for small pins. Though the pins typically require a small incision, they pose a greater risk of irritation of surroundingskin and are customarily removed once the collarbone heals.
One less invasive procedure is percutaneous elastic intramedullary nailing of the clavicle. In this procedure, a tiny incision is made near the place where the clavicle and breastbone meet, and a hole is drilled into the anterior cortex. An elastic nail is then temporarily inserted in the hole, where it remains until the healing process is complete, typically two to three months.