Clavicle Injury: When to See an Orthopaedic Surgeon

What is the Clavicle?

The clavicle, commonly known as the collarbone, is the bone that connects the shoulder to the breastbone. If you have suffered a trauma to this bone, you are likely in a great deal of pain. It can be tricky to determine whether or not to seek medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the injury and the level of pain, you might need intervention from an orthopaedic surgeon.

Sings and Symptoms of Broken Clavicle

  • Swelling, redness, tenderness or bruising to the clavicle area
  • Inability to move the shoulder
  • Deformity of the bone, seemingly protruding out, stretching the skin
  • Pain that increases with movement
  • Experiencing a grinding sound when trying to move the shoulder
  • Painful bulge or bump over the injured area
  • Sagging position of the shoulder

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms following an orthopaedic trauma to the clavicle area, seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for a diagnosis can help determine the best treatment approach. Your physician will examine the injured area and likely do an x-ray or CT scan not only to confirm a fracture but to also assess the surrounding joints to determine if there is further damage.

While many clavicle breaks can heal with minimal intervention, there are some cases that require surgery. For this reason, proper diagnosis by an orthopaedic surgeon is essential. Treatment may include an immobilizing sling that will keep the shoulder in place and allow for the bone to heal correctly. Pain relievers can help with discomfort while the injury heals.

In the cases of multiple fractures to the clavicle bone, bone breaking through the skin, or a severely displaced bone, surgery could be the best option to ensure optimal results. Failure to treat this type of injury could lead to further complications including osteoarthritis, nerve or blood vessel injury, or slow healing.

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