Clavicle Fracture Surgery Overview
Clavicle (collarbone) fractures are quite common in the athletic population, especially those involved in contact sports. The clavicle has the ability to break in a number of different fracture patterns, some of which are more complex than others. Certain patients may experience a simple break where both sides of the crack line up, while other patients may experience a complex break where the bone breaks into multiple fragments, known as a comminution. In more severe cases of clavicle fractures, Dr. Jervis Yau, orthopedic shoulder surgeon, will recommend surgical fixation to restore length and alignment of the clavicle ensure proper healing. The goal is to return patients from Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California patients to athletic activities with minimal dysfunction after treatment.
Many clavicle fractures heal with non-operative treatment using a sling and activity modifications for 6-10 weeks. If there is significant shortening, comminution or fracture displacement, Dr. Yau will typically recommend operative fixation. It is important to note that surgery does not speed up the clavicle’s healing process, but rather stabilizes and aligns the bones so that it can heal in the proper position. Surgery usually will provide quicker pain relief due to immediate stabilization of the clavicle after repair.
Dr. Yau performs clavicle fracture surgery with the use of plates and screws. An open approach to the clavicle will allow for good visualization to facilitate reduction and alignment. A plate with multiple screws will be placed to repair the fracture. Occasionally, the plate may cause discomfort from direct pressure with backpacks and clothing after the fracture has healed. In these situations, Dr. Yau may recommend removing the hardware.