Collarbone fracture (broken collarbone)

Chest | Orthopaedics | Collarbone fracture (broken collarbone) (Disease)


The collarbone, which is also called the clavicle, is the bone located over the top of your chest, between your breastbone (sternum) and shoulder blade (scapula). It is easy to feel by palpating the clavicle, because unlike other bones which are covered with muscle, only skin covers a large part of the bone.

Most often, patients complain of shoulder pain, and have difficulty moving their arm. Swelling and bruising around the broken bone are also very common. After the swelling has subsided, the fracture is often easily felt through the skin.

Causes and Risk factors

Clavicle fractures are extremely common. Broken collarbones occur in babies (usually during birth), children and adolescents (because the clavicle does not completely ossify, or develop, until the late teens), athletes (because of the risks of being hit or falling), or during many other types of accidents and falls.

Clavicle fractures are common injuries, and they can occur in many different ways. Some patients fall on an outstretched hand, others fall and hit the outside of their shoulder. Broken collarbones can also occur from a direct hit to the clavicle. In babies, clavicles may fracture at birth during passage through the birth canal.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Most of the time there is an obvious deformity, or bump, at the fracture site. Gentle pressure over the break will bring about pain to the patient. Although a fragment of bone rarely breaks through the skin, it may push the skin into a tent formation.

If the broken ends of the bones have not shifted out of place and line up correctly, you may not need surgery. Broken collarbones can heal without surgery. However, if the bones are out of place (displaced), the doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery can align the bones exactly and hold them in good position during their healing period. This can improve shoulder strength when you have recovered. ...