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Clavicle Fracture (Broken Collarbone)

The following information is provided courtesy of AAOS.org.

A broken collarbone is also known as a clavicle fracture. This is a very common fracture that occurs in people of all ages.

Anatomy

The collarbone (clavicle) is located between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade (scapula), and it connects the arm to the body.

The clavicle lies above several important nerves and blood vessels. However, these vital structures are rarely injured when the clavicle breaks, even though the bone ends can shift when they are fractured.

The clavicle is part of your shoulder and connects your ribcage to your arm.

Reproduced from The Body Almanac. (c) American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2003.

Description

The clavicle is a long bone and most breaks occur in the middle of it. Occasionally, the bone will break where it attaches at the ribcage or shoulder blade.

Cause

Clavicle fractures are often caused by a direct blow to the shoulder. This can happen during a fall onto the shoulder or a car collision. A fall onto an outstretched arm can also cause a clavicle fracture. In babies, these fractures can occur during the passage through the birth canal.

Symptoms

Clavicle fractures can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm. Additional symptoms include:

In this drawing, the fracture is closer to where the clavicle attaches to the shoulder blade.

(Reproduced from Nuber GW, Bowen MK: Acromioclavicular joint injuries and distal clavicle fractures. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 1997;5: 11-18.)
  • Sagging shoulder (down and forward)
  • Inability to lift the arm because of pain
  • A grinding sensation if an attempt is made to raise the arm
  • A deformity or "bump" over the break
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone

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