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Clavicle Fracture Types and Their Treatment Options

A clavicle fracture, also known as a broken collarbone, is a common injury that can occur due to various reasons such as sports injuries, falls, or accidents. The clavicle is a long bone that connects the shoulder blade to the breastbone, and its fracture can cause significant pain and discomfort. Understanding the different types of clavicle fractures and their treatment options is crucial for proper management and recovery. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of clavicle fracture types and the various treatment options available.

1. Types of Clavicle Fractures

Clavicle fractures can be classified into three main types based on the location of the fracture:

  • Midshaft Fractures: These fractures occur in the middle portion of the clavicle and are the most common type. They account for approximately 80% of all clavicle fractures.
  • Distal Fractures: Distal fractures involve the end of the clavicle near the shoulder joint. They are less common than midshaft fractures but can be more challenging to treat due to their proximity to important structures.
  • Proximal Fractures: Proximal fractures occur near the sternum or breastbone. They are relatively rare and often associated with high-energy trauma.

Each type of clavicle fracture requires a specific approach to treatment, considering factors such as the location and severity of the fracture.

2. Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatment is often the first line of management for clavicle fractures, especially for less severe cases. The following non-surgical treatment options may be considered:

  • Immobilization: Immobilizing the affected arm and shoulder with the help of a sling or brace can promote healing and reduce pain. This approach is commonly used for midshaft fractures.
  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may be recommended to alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Physical Therapy: Once the initial healing phase is complete, physical therapy exercises can help restore range of motion, strength, and function to the shoulder joint.

Non-surgical treatment is generally effective for most clavicle fractures, particularly those that are not displaced or significantly angulated. However, it is essential to closely monitor the healing process and ensure proper alignment of the bone during follow-up visits with a healthcare professional.

3. Surgical Treatment Options

Surgical intervention may be necessary for certain types of clavicle fractures, particularly those that are displaced, significantly angulated, or associated with other complications. The following surgical treatment options may be considered:

  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): ORIF involves making an incision over the fracture site, realigning the broken bone fragments, and securing them with plates, screws, or pins. This procedure provides stability and promotes proper healing.
  • Intramedullary Fixation: Intramedullary fixation involves inserting a metal rod into the hollow center of the clavicle to stabilize the fracture. This technique is commonly used for midshaft fractures.
  • External Fixation: External fixation involves using pins or screws placed outside the body to stabilize the fracture. This technique may be considered in complex fractures or cases where internal fixation is not feasible.

Surgical treatment aims to restore the normal alignment and function of the clavicle, reduce the risk of complications, and facilitate faster healing. The choice of surgical technique depends on various factors, including the type and location of the fracture, the patient’s age and activity level, and the surgeon’s expertise.

4. Rehabilitation and Recovery

Regardless of the treatment approach, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in the recovery process following a clavicle fracture. Proper rehabilitation helps restore strength, range of motion, and function to the shoulder joint. The rehabilitation process typically involves the following:

  • Early Motion Exercises: Gentle range of motion exercises are initiated early in the healing process to prevent stiffness and promote joint mobility.
  • Progressive Strengthening Exercises: As the fracture heals, progressive strengthening exercises are introduced to rebuild muscle strength and improve stability around the shoulder joint.
  • Functional Training: Functional training focuses on specific activities and movements that are relevant to the individual’s daily life or sports activities. This helps ensure a safe return to normal activities.

Rehabilitation should be guided by a qualified physical therapist or healthcare professional who can tailor the program to the individual’s specific needs and monitor progress closely. Compliance with the rehabilitation program is essential for optimal recovery.

5. Complications and Long-Term Outlook

While most clavicle fractures heal well with appropriate treatment and rehabilitation, complications can sometimes arise. Some potential complications include:

  • Malunion: Malunion refers to improper healing of the fracture, resulting in a misaligned or shortened clavicle. This can lead to functional limitations and cosmetic concerns.
  • Nonunion: Nonunion occurs when the fractured bone fails to heal despite appropriate treatment. It may require additional surgical intervention to promote bone healing.
  • Infection: Infection at the surgical site is a potential complication of surgical treatment. Prompt medical attention is necessary if signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or swelling, develop.
  • Nerve or Blood Vessel Injury: In rare cases, clavicle fractures can cause damage to nearby nerves or blood vessels. This may result in sensory or motor deficits and require further evaluation and management.

It is important to follow the recommended treatment plan, attend follow-up appointments, and report any unusual symptoms or concerns to a healthcare professional. With proper care and adherence to rehabilitation, most individuals can expect a full recovery and return to their normal activities.


Clavicle fractures are common injuries that can cause significant pain and discomfort. Understanding the different types of clavicle fractures and their treatment options is crucial for proper management and recovery. Non-surgical treatment options, such as immobilization and physical therapy, are often effective for less severe fractures. Surgical intervention may be necessary for displaced or complex fractures. Rehabilitation plays a vital role in the recovery process, helping restore strength and function to the shoulder joint. While complications can occur, most clavicle fractures heal well with appropriate treatment and rehabilitation. It is important to closely follow the recommended treatment plan and seek medical attention for any concerns or complications that may arise.

By gaining a comprehensive understanding of clavicle fracture types and treatment options, individuals can make informed decisions about their care and work towards a successful recovery.

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