What is a clavicle fracture?
A clavicle fracture is a break in the clavicle (collarbone). The clavicle is a long bone that connects the upper arm to the trunk of the body. One end of the clavicle is connected to the breastbone and the other is attached to the shoulder blade. There is a clavicle on each side of the front, upper part of the chest. The clavicle holds the shoulder joint away from the body to allow for greater movement. It also protects nerves and blood vessels coming from the neck and going to the arms.
What causes a clavicle fracture?
A clavicle fracture is commonly caused by injury or trauma. This usually happens when you fall on your outstretched hand or land on your shoulder. A direct blow to the shoulder may also cause a clavicle fracture. This may occur during a fight, a car accident, or in any contact sport, such as football and wrestling.
What are the signs and symptoms of clavicle fracture?
You may have pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, or a bump in the injured area. The bones may poke through the skin, not look normal, or look out of place. The shoulder and arm may feel weak, numb, and tingly. You may have trouble moving your shoulder and arm. You may need to support the arm with your other hand to decrease the pain.
How is a clavicle fracture diagnosed?
You may have one or more of the following:
- Computerized tomography scan: This is also called a CT or CAT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your clavicle. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken. The dye is usually given in your vein (IV). The dye may help your caregiver see the pictures better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, or have other allergies or medical conditions.
- Magnetic resonance imaging scan: This is also called an MRI. An MRI uses magnetic waves to take pictures of your clavicle, chest bone, and shoulder areas. During an MRI, pictures are taken of your bones, muscles, joints, or blood vessels. You will need to lie still during an MRI. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This may cause serious injury.
- X-rays: You may need x-rays of your clavicle, chest bone, and shoulder to check for broken bones or other problems. X-rays of both your injured and uninjured clavicles may be taken.
How is clavicle fracture treated?
Treatment will depend on the damage and the kind of fracture you have. Most broken clavicles heal on their own. You may need to rest and do special exercises to help heal your clavicle. It is very important to keep your arm from moving to allow the clavicle to heal. You may need any of the following:
- Medicines: Medicines may be given to ease your pain. You may also need antibiotic medicine or a tetanus shot if there is a break in the skin.
- Splint or sling: There are several types of slings that may be used to prevent a broken clavicle from further damage. A figure-of-eight splint wraps around your shoulders to keep them back. Your arm may also be placed in a simple clavicle strap for support and comfort.
- Supportive therapy: Ice packs may be put on your fractured clavicle to decrease swelling, pain, and redness. Physical therapy may be needed once swelling and pain are gone to help your clavicle fracture heal faster. Exercises that increase range of motion may be done as the pain decreases. This helps to bring back the strength and power of your shoulders and arms.
- Surgery: You may need surgery to return the bones back to their normal position if your fracture is severe. Surgery may also be needed to fix a clavicle that sticks out through the skin. Pins, plates, and screws may be used to hold the bone together. Further problems, such as an injury to a nerve or blood vessel, may also be treated with surgery.
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