Diagnosis and Treatment of Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder Fractures – Diagnosis and Treatment

When an injury occurs that causes the shoulder bone to crack or partially crack, this condition is known as a shoulder fracture. The fracture typically involves the collarbone or clavicle, or the area that lies just below the ball of the upper arm bone, known as the humerus.

The cause of a shoulder fracture is rarely a surprise, as a sudden and abrupt trauma generally creates the fracture. A sudden blow to the shoulder or a bad fall may result in a shoulder fracture. Pain immediately follows, and in the most severe cases you may be able to see the shoulder bone out of its position.

There are two types of shoulder fractures:

· Displaced fracture – A bone fracture in which the pieces on either side of the break are out of line.

· Nondisplaced fracture – When the broken pieces line up on each side of the break and do not move out of place.

Most shoulder fractures result in a nondisplaced fracture, where the broken bones remain in place while the area heals. The promising thing about a nondisplaced fracture is that the broken pieces do not have to be perfectly aligned for them to heal properly or for the patient to regain proper mobility and function. Some degree of displacement may be acceptable for the proper healing to occur. When a severe displaced fracture occurs, the patient is typically a candidate for surgery in order to repair the condition.

Shoulder Fracture Diagnosis

The diagnosis is fairly obvious when x-rays are ordered and examined. The x-rays will reveal the extent of the shoulder damage and present the break or breaks. A doctor will be able to determine the displacement of the bones or determine if the break is nondisplaced.

Your orthopedic doctor will be able to place the bones back into a position that will allow for healing and restored mobility. A sling may need to be worn for several weeks in order to immobilize the area while it heals. Most fractures that are nondisplaced or partially displaced do not require surgery and heal within three to four months.

Surgical Repair of Shoulder Fractures

The most severe fractures do require surgery in order to repair the bones and move them into place. This may entail a shoulder “pinning”, partial joint replacement, or a plate and screws.

To help restore function, strength and mobility both surgery followed by physical therapy may be required. The surgery choices depend on the type of fracture is present in the shoulder; however, the overall outcome usually provides restoration of shoulder function once healed.