What Is Clavicle Surgery?

Christina Edwards

Clavicle surgery is a medical procedure sometimes used as a treatment for a clavicle fracture. This is usually only done when the break is severe, or when it will cause problems in the future. Metal components are often used during this surgery to stabilize the bones while they heal. In many cases, patients who undergo clavicle surgery will heal faster than those who treat broken clavicles with other methods.

A human skeleton, including the clavicles in red.
A human skeleton, including the clavicles in red.

The clavicle is the bone that connects the shoulder to the sternum. It can usually be seen just below the shoulder and neck. A clavicle fracture can occur after a direct hit to the area or nasty fall. These types of fractures usually require nothing more than immobilization and pain medications. In some cases, however, clavicle surgery may be required.

Clavicle surgery is used to treat severe clavicle fractures.
Clavicle surgery is used to treat severe clavicle fractures.

Clavicle surgery is usually required for serious breaks. When the bone is broken in more than one place, it may be considered a serious clavicle fracture. Also, if the bones can be seen sticking out of the skin, surgery will usually be performed. This type of surgery will also be performed if a doctor believes that a person will have a noticeable deformity after a clavicle fracture.

If blood vessels or nerves become pinched by the broken bone, serious medical complications may develop. Symptoms of this usually include numbness or tingling in a person's hand or arm. In this case, surgeons must perform clavicle surgery to repair any blood vessels or nerves.

In some cases, a clavicle fracture can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing. This usually occurs when the clavicle is broken near the sternum. Clavicle surgery is also usually required in these cases.

During a clavicle surgery, a patient will be have either general or local anesthesia administered. Surgeons will then make incisions, or cuts, in the skin to access the fracture. Metal plates are then usually attached to a broken clavicle with screws or pins. These items will stabilize the bones, causing the fracture to heal better than if just a sling is used.

There are several benefits of clavicle surgery. Patients who have this surgery usually heal faster than patients who do not have surgery. They can often return to their normal activities within four to six weeks. Patients who only use a sling as treatment typically heal completely within a few months.

Since the outline of the clavicle can usually be seen easily in most people, any deformities of this bone may be rather prominent. Patients who do not have clavicle surgery often have a visible bump in this area. On the other hand, patients who do have this surgery will typically have little or no clavicle deformities.

The clavicle connects the shoulder to the sternum.
The clavicle connects the shoulder to the sternum.

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