How Do They Fix a Broken Collar Bone?

Lance Armstrong broke his collar bone (clavicle) on March 23, 2009. He was competing in a race in Spain when he and several other cyclists were involved in a bad crash. Doctors in Spain diagnosed him with a fractured clavicle, one of the most common orthopaedic cycling injuries.

The injury

Clavicle fractures are very common – up to 5% of all fractures that occur each year. Most of these are fractures through the middle of the shaft of the bone, called mid-shaft clavicle fractures.

Most of these happen when someone falls directly onto the shoulder.

The treatment

Over the years, the vast majority of these fractures have been treated non-surgically with a sling and some early therapy exercises. The bone usually heals on its own in six to eight weeks total.

Lance Armstrong had surgery to fix his broken clavicle. This was done using a plate (flat piece of metal with holes in it) and several screws. The metal stabilizes while they heal together.

Surgery allows patients to return to low-impact activities faster than letting the bone heal on its own. The clavicle usually stops hurting immediately after surgery, though some incision soreness is normal for a few days.

Pros, cons, and expectations of clavicle fracture treatment

Should you have collar bone surgery after a fracture? Only you and your surgeon can decide for sure.

Surgery for a fractured clavicle has risks such as infection, injury to nerves and blood vessels, and the risks that go along with anesthesia. You can have bone healing problems whether you have surgery or not. Sometimes patients want the plate taken out after the bone heals.

Some patients want surgery to avoid a weird-looking bump on their shoulder from the shape of the bone as it heals. The problem is that after surgery, you’ll have a scar in the place of the bump, and the bone may be prominent because of the plate on top of it. This may be more noticeable the thinner you are. clavicle bump and clavicle scar

There are both proven and theoretical advantages to fixing these fractures with metal hardware. Some problems with non-surgical treatment are as follows:

* weakness and pain in the shoulder

* loss of shoulder motion

* loss of endurance

* neurologic symptoms like numbness or tingling

* cosmetic deformity

If someone you know has broken their collar bone recently, make sure they discuss all these details with their doctor.