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Clavicle Fracture Treatment Options

Clavicle fractures are usually the result of a traumatic injury resulting from a fall or direct blow to the shoulder.  A clavicle fracture requires immediate medical attention.  Treatment options vary depending on the location and severity of the break.  Some fractures may be treated conservatively with immobilization and rest while others may need immediate surgery.

Most clavicle fractures occur in the middle of the bone (midshaft) although a break may occur anywhere along the clavicle. A midshaft fracture is most often seen in young and active adults under the age of 30. Nonsurgical management has traditionally been used to treat non-displaced midshaft fractures in adolescents. However, new studies report that surgical repair also provides satisfactory outcomes.  Treatment is based on the fracture configuration and the patient’s activity level and demands.

Nonsurgical management

  • If the fracture is in the middle of clavicle and the bones are aligned and not out of place (a non-displaced fracture), nonsurgical management provides satisfactory outcomes. It involves immediate immobilization with a figure eight sling to support the arm and shoulder while the bone heals. Dr. Harrison will prescribe medications to manage the pain and recommend icing to treat pain and swelling. Restrictions on the use of the arm include no sports, limiting lifting weight to no more than five pounds, and avoiding raising the arm above the shoulder for the first 4 to 6 weeks. Early mobilization is important to control pain and facilitate quicker recovery. Range of motion exercises and strengthening will be progressively added as healing permits
  • Complete healing takes 4-6 months.
  • Time to return to sports is determined by Dr. Harrison.

Surgical treatment options

Surgical repair is necessary when the pieces of the broken bone are out of alignment and position (displaced). The goal of surgery is to restore anatomical alignment and position, and to secure the broken pieces in their correct position with wires, screws, plates, and rods. The name of the surgical procedure is open reduction with internal fixation (ORIF). It is a safe and reliable procedure to repair a clavicle that is broken in pieces. ORIF provides superior early functional recovery.

Studies report that surgical treatment of displaced midshaft clavicle fractures yields faster bone healing and functional recovery, and better outcomes than nonsurgical management. However, ORIF is open surgery with a long incision. The risks associated with this surgery are the standard risks of surgery, including infection, bleeding, and pain.

Recent studies report that ORIF is the best surgical procedure for adults and adolescents who have a displaced midshaft clavicle break.

Contact Dr. Harrison’s office to schedule a consultation today.

Dr. Harrison is a board-certified fellowship trained orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon who specializes in arthroscopic knee and shoulder surgery.  He is the Head Team Physician for the United States Alpine Ski Team, the Chief of Sports Medicine at McKay-Dee Hospital, and the Head Team Physician for Weber State University for over 20 years.  Dr. Harrison completed his undergraduate degree at Baylor University and received his medical degree from the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  He completed his orthopedic residency at the University of Utah followed by a fellowship in sports medicine at the Cincinnati Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center and finished with an additional AO Trauma Fellowship in Bern, Switzerland.

At a Glance

Dr. Jeffrey Harrison

  • Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Head Team Physician US Women's Alpine Team and Weber State University
  • Performs over 800 surgeries per year
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