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Clavicle Fracture Surgeries: Risks and Benefits

Clavicle fractures, also known as collarbone fractures, are a common injury that can occur due to various reasons such as sports injuries, falls, or motor vehicle accidents. These fractures can cause significant pain and discomfort, and in some cases, may require surgical intervention for proper healing. In this article, we will explore the risks and benefits associated with clavicle fracture surgeries, providing valuable research-based insights to help readers make informed decisions about their treatment options.

The Importance of Clavicle Fracture Surgeries

Clavicle fractures are one of the most common types of fractures, accounting for approximately 5% of all fractures in adults. While many clavicle fractures can be managed conservatively with non-surgical treatments such as immobilization and physical therapy, certain cases may require surgical intervention to ensure optimal healing and functional outcomes.

One of the primary reasons for considering clavicle fracture surgery is the potential for better alignment and stability of the fractured bone. Surgical fixation techniques, such as plate and screw fixation or intramedullary fixation, can help realign the fractured bone fragments and provide stability during the healing process. This can lead to improved functional outcomes and a reduced risk of complications such as non-union or malunion.

Additionally, clavicle fracture surgeries can help expedite the healing process and allow patients to resume their normal activities sooner. Non-surgical treatments often require a longer period of immobilization, which can result in muscle atrophy and joint stiffness. Surgery, on the other hand, allows for early mobilization and rehabilitation, which can promote faster recovery and return to daily activities.

Risks Associated with Clavicle Fracture Surgeries

While clavicle fracture surgeries offer several benefits, they are not without risks. It is essential for patients to be aware of these potential risks and discuss them with their healthcare providers before making a decision about surgical intervention.


One of the primary risks associated with any surgical procedure is the risk of infection. Although the incidence of infection following clavicle fracture surgery is relatively low, it is still a possibility. Infection can occur at the surgical site and may require additional treatment such as antibiotics or, in severe cases, surgical debridement.

Hardware Complications

Clavicle fracture surgeries often involve the use of hardware, such as plates and screws, to stabilize the fractured bone fragments. While these devices are designed to provide stability, they can sometimes cause complications. Hardware-related complications may include irritation, discomfort, or even breakage of the implants. In such cases, additional surgery may be required to address these issues.

Nerve and Blood Vessel Injury

During clavicle fracture surgeries, there is a risk of injury to nearby nerves and blood vessels. The brachial plexus, a network of nerves that control movement and sensation in the arm, runs close to the clavicle. Damage to these nerves can result in weakness, numbness, or tingling in the affected arm. Similarly, injury to blood vessels can lead to bleeding or compromised blood supply to the arm.

Non-Union or Malunion

Despite surgical intervention, there is still a risk of non-union or malunion of the clavicle fracture. Non-union refers to the failure of the fractured bone to heal, while malunion refers to improper alignment or angulation of the healed bone. These complications can result in persistent pain, limited range of motion, and functional impairment.

Anesthesia Risks

Clavicle fracture surgeries are typically performed under general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. While anesthesia is generally safe, it carries its own set of risks. These risks may include allergic reactions, respiratory complications, or adverse reactions to medications used during the procedure. Patients should discuss their medical history and any concerns with their anesthesiologist prior to surgery.

Research on Clavicle Fracture Surgeries

Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the outcomes and effectiveness of clavicle fracture surgeries. These studies provide valuable insights into the risks and benefits associated with surgical intervention.

A study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery compared the outcomes of surgical and non-surgical treatment for displaced clavicle fractures. The study found that surgical fixation resulted in better functional outcomes and a lower rate of non-union compared to non-surgical treatment. However, it also noted a higher risk of hardware-related complications in the surgical group.

Another study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma examined the long-term outcomes of clavicle fracture surgeries. The study followed patients for an average of 10 years and found that surgical fixation led to improved functional outcomes and a higher rate of fracture union compared to non-surgical treatment. However, it also highlighted the importance of careful patient selection and appropriate surgical technique to minimize complications.

These studies, along with others in the field, suggest that clavicle fracture surgeries can offer significant benefits in terms of improved alignment, stability, and functional outcomes. However, it is crucial to consider individual patient factors, such as age, activity level, and fracture characteristics, when determining the most appropriate treatment approach.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Following clavicle fracture surgery, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential to optimize recovery and regain full function of the affected arm. The rehabilitation process typically involves a combination of physical therapy exercises, pain management, and gradual return to activities.

Physical therapy exercises play a crucial role in restoring range of motion, strength, and flexibility of the shoulder and arm. These exercises may include gentle stretching, strengthening exercises, and functional movements to improve coordination and stability. The intensity and progression of exercises should be guided by a qualified physical therapist to ensure safe and effective rehabilitation.

Pain management is another important aspect of the recovery process. Pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, may be prescribed to manage post-operative pain. It is essential for patients to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions regarding medication use and to report any persistent or worsening pain.

Gradual return to activities is typically recommended to avoid re-injury and allow the healing process to progress. Patients may start with gentle range of motion exercises and gradually increase the intensity and complexity of activities over time. It is important to listen to the body and not push beyond the limits of pain or discomfort.


Clavicle fracture surgeries can offer several benefits in terms of improved alignment, stability, and functional outcomes. However, they are not without risks, and patients should carefully consider the potential complications before making a decision about surgical intervention. It is crucial to have a thorough discussion with a healthcare provider to understand the individualized risks and benefits based on the specific fracture characteristics and patient factors.

Research studies have provided valuable insights into the outcomes and effectiveness of clavicle fracture surgeries, highlighting the importance of appropriate patient selection and surgical technique. The recovery and rehabilitation process following surgery is also crucial for optimizing outcomes and regaining full function of the affected arm.

In summary, clavicle fracture surgeries can be an effective treatment option for certain cases, but it is essential to weigh the risks and benefits carefully. With proper evaluation, surgical technique, and post-operative rehabilitation, patients can achieve successful outcomes and return to their normal activities with minimal complications.

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