Fractured Shoulder

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Fractured Shoulder Overview

Trauma to the shoulder joint is common in active individuals and athletes. A fractured shoulder is one of many injuries one may sustain from blunt trauma such a fall or motor vehicle accident. Fractures of the shoulder girdle are classified based on the bone that is fractured (humerus, clavicle, or scapula). Fractures can be further classified as either non-displaced or displaced. A non-displaced fracture involves a break where the broken pieces line up and is not shifted, while a displaced fracture represent fracture fragments that are separated from each other and do not line up. If a patient in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria or Ventura, California area is suspected of a shoulder fracture, they are encouraged to contact Dr. Jervis Yau, shoulder specialist, for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Fractures of the shoulder girdle happen when excessive force is placed on the joint through trauma. There are three distinct bones that can experience a break, including:

  • Clavicle Fractures: collarbone
  • Proximal humerus fractures: upper arm bone
  • Various scapular fractures: shoulder blade

The most common fracture seen in the young, active population is the clavicle fracture.  Proximal humerus fractures are typically seen in elderly individuals due to decreased bone density.  Scapula fractures are usually due to high-energy impact such as a fall from height or motor vehicle accident.

Fractured Shoulder Symptoms

Severe pain, crepitation and limited movement are the hallmark symptoms of fractures. Patients may also experience significant swelling and bruising of the shoulder and arm.

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Fractured Shoulder Diagnosis

Dr. Yau will diagnose your specific injury through physical examination and X-rays. CT and MRI scans are sometimes needed to evaluate fracture severity, assess the amount of fragment displacement and soft tissue injury in order to determine the optimal treatment plan.

X-Rays of Fractured Shoulders

X-Ray of Proximal Humerus Injury (Click to Enlarge)

X-Ray of Proximal Humerus Injury (Click to Enlarge)

Clavicle Fracture X-Ray (Click to Enlarge)

Fractured Shoulder Treatment

Non-Surgical

Many patients with fractures can be treated through non-surgical measures. Dr. Yau will place the injured shoulder in a sling to protect and prevent further injury as the bone heals. Patients will also be encouraged to use ice, medications and physical therapy to restore shoulder function.

Surgical

Surgery may be recommended based on fracture pattern, severity, age and activity level.  There are various surgical procedures that may be used for fracture repair. These include:

  • Open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) – Most common. This involves open surgery in order to realign the fracture fragments followed by stabilizing them with the use plate, screws or pins.
  • Percutaneous pinning – Pins are placed through the skin and into the bone to stabilize the fracture using X-ray guidance.
  • Shoulder replacement – If a proximal humerus fracture is too severe to fix, the broken pieces will be removed and replaced with a shoulder prosthesis.

If you have experienced a fractured shoulder, such as a clavicle, humerus or scapular fracture, you are encouraged to contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Jervis Yau, shoulder specialist located in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California communities.

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